One of the very hot pieces of news in the media is the crime situation in Johor. It is so bad that a few thousand people signed a petition two weeks ago, and a couple of hundred people demonstrated outside the menteri besar's house in Johor Baru.
One of the basic duties of a government is to protect and to ensure the safety of its people. It is what governing is about. This worsening crime situation reminds me of the almost lawless days in Hong Kong in the 60s and 70s. Then, even the top people in the police force were linked to the crime bosses, and the whole administration was very badly corrupted. To look at the situation in Hong Kong then, I quote from its Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) website:
' ... the problem of corruption was very serious in the public sector. Vivid examples included ambulance attendants demanding 'tea money' before picking up a sick person and firemen soliciting 'water money' before they would turn on the hoses to put out a fire. Even hospital amahs asked for 'tips' before they gave patients a bedpan or a glass of water. Offering bribes to the right officials was also necessary for the application of public housing, schooling and other public services.
'Corruption was particularly serious in the police force. Corrupt police officers covered up vice, gambling and drug activities. Social law and order was under threat. Many in the community had fallen victims to corruption. And yet, they swallowed their anger.
'Public resentment escalated to new heights when a corrupt expatriate police officer under investigation succeeded in fleeing Hong Kong. The case provided the straw that broke the camel's back. Controlling assets of over HK$4.3 million, Peter Godber, a chief police superintendent, was under investigation in 1973. It was suspected that his unearned wealth had been obtained from corrupt means. But Godber managed to slip out of the territory undetected during the week given to him by the attorney-general to explain the source of his assets. Godber's escape unleashed a public outcry.
'Students spearheaded a mass rally in Victoria Park, protesting and condemning the government for failing to tackle the corruption problem. Demanding prompt government action, protesters with slogans like 'Fight Corruption, Arrest Godber' insisted that Godber be extradited to stand trial.
'This is how the ICAC in Hong Kong came about. The then governor, Sir Murray MacLehose (later Lord), argued for an independent anti-corruption organisation in a speech delivered to the Legislative Council in October 1973.
'Sir Murray said, 'I think the situation calls for an organisation, led by men of high rank and status, which can devote its whole time to the eradication of this evil; a further and conclusive argument is that public confidence is very much involved. Clearly the public would have more confidence in a unit that is entirely independent, and separate from any department of the government, including the police.'
Sounds very familiar, doesn't it?
Well, our crime and corruption situation is quite similar, albeit to a lesser extent. What can be done here is to follow the example of Hong Kong, which has similar laws like us, being a British colony for 100 years.
Set up an ICAC. Or at least the IPCMC.
I am very sure, just like what happened in Hong Kong, this institution, if given full powers to investigate, arrest and prosecute, will bring about a total change to our police force as well as other aspects of public service.
We know we need it, but why aren't we getting it? We need the political will to push this through. The question is, do we have that will?