"Lu mai tia, gua kueo mata gia lu" used to be a common threat in Hokkien households when mothers admonished their children. Translated, it means "If you don't listen, I will call the police to catch you".
We have been brought up to fear the police as they are known mainly for arresting people and putting them in lock-ups. With the current spate of exposs involving the police, our fear has not been unfounded.
In a police station, the officer-in-charge is king. Trained to obey authority, the policeman respects only his superiors. Somehow, through years of corruption and slack control, they realised they were able to get away from many things, even with murder, literally. As long as their boss is willing to protect them, nobody can touch them.
Often, whenever possible, people are discouraged from reporting incidences like snatch thefts and loss of identity cards, so that the statistics will show the police in good stead.
And the corruption. From small traffic offences to illegal lotteries, drink-driving and other bigger crimes, we have heard it all. If not a direct "Macam mana?" (or "So how?"), there is no shortage of middlemen who will offer their services to "kautim" (or "settle") practically anything.
In comparison, corrupt practices seem mild when compared to inhumane and humiliating abuses by the cops. There have also been reports of death while in custody. We are getting into a situation where nobody is safe from some policemen. Whether you are a man, boy, woman, girl, foreigner, local, bigshot, or ordinary folk, your encounter with the police could be horrendous. Once targeted, nobody can help you.
Well known examples are Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister, and Raja Petra Kamaruddin, grandson of a former governor of Penang and cousin of the present Sultan of Selangor. If such important people can be bullied by the police, who can feel safe?
As a parent, I am especially worried about my son and two daughters, who like most youngsters of their age, are likely to be on the road well past midnight. Not only do I fear the robbers but also the police roadblocks.
The newspapers yesterday screamed "Special inquiry" in big and bold letters, followed by "Independent body to probe ear squat issue". I think these are unlikely to reassure and comfort the general public.
The main reason being that the Deputy IGP has already confirmed that naked ear-squats have always been standard procedure. Deputy Home Minister Noh Omar has also confirmed that the police personnel involved have acted correctly.
In other words, there is no denial of such practices. The police and the Home Ministry have confirmed that every action was within standard procedure. So what else can a special inquiry lead to?