“There is no evidence to show there had been any police officers who were in cahoots with the syndicates in this particular case.”
– Bukit Aman responding to questions posed by New Straits Times
Readers email me and ask me what I think of the fall of our kleptocrat. Surely, I must have something to say?
Most reportage reeks of schadenfreude and for a voting public who for years had their noses rubbed in the scandal, every photo, every news piece, every indignation suffered by our former prime minister is the equivalent of a money shot. Needless to say, I am relieved that his reign is over and nobody has ever been as complicit as he has in his own downfall. My interests, of course, lay elsewhere.
There is something very wrong with our country. Nowhere is this more evident than in the mass graves of Wang Kelian. What keeps me up at night, especially as a former servant in the state security apparatus, are incidents like Wang Kelian. This, to me, is real evil. Institutional evil that corrupts our society in ways that Birkin bags, luxury yachts and chocolate-pilfering cops could never do.
Make no mistake. The Umno state is complicit in this evil, as well as any regime which chooses to ignore it. By covering up the sins of the petty fiefdoms that hold sway in our state security apparatus, they become enablers, or worse, for the evil done to people who are marginalised in our society.
The reportage by the New Straits Times was especially robust considering the milieu they were operating in. In one illuminating paragraph from the expose, the NST team accused deputy inspector-general of police Noor Rashid Ibrahim of stonewalling them.
The graves at Wang Kelian are but part of a larger narrative of slavery, rape, murder and governmental malfeasance that should shock the nation, but instead was buried beneath more accessible and convenient anti-Umno narratives. This has to change.
What we are really talking about in cases like these is the collusion between the state security apparatus and criminal organisations. Most consider this business as usual but for some, like me, I refer to this as domestic terrorism.
The fact that allegations against police officers accused of collaborating with human trafficking cartels (how anodyne, let’s just call them slavers) was dismissed with the usual “no evidence”. This should tell us something about how the Umno state managed it affairs when it came to these sorts of issues, and hopefully how a Pakatan Harapan regime does not.
In my piece about the bodies and lies buried in Wang Kelian, I referenced a Guardian report of a 2009 US Senate report of the allegation that “there were questions about the ‘level of participation’ of government officials in Malaysia and Thailand.” Meanwhile, in a news report, a Special Branch officer claimed that 80 percent of border cops are corrupt. From the report:
"The enemy we have to fight is one that operates as an institution. We are dealing with institutionalised corruption so deeply entrenched that expecting internal disciplining is like asking the chief crook to rat out on his runners."
And if you think this is bad, according to the report, in a 2011 arrest by Special Branch of eight immigration officers involved in a human trafficking operation, when interrogated and asked to name others who were involved in this crime, the answer was: "It would be easier if you asked us for the names of officers not on the take."
In my piece, I singled out the DAP’s Steven Sim for asking on the status of the 12 police officers who were implicated in this heinous crime. As usual Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said this in his written reply – “However, they have been released because there was insufficient evidence to convict them of the offence."
Pardon my language but with the former Umno regime, there was always that excuse of “insufficient evidence”. When it came to the 1MDB scandal, insufficient evidence or worse, no crime. When it came to deaths in custody, no evidence. When it came to police corruption, no evidence. Sure, the MACC put on a good show arresting people but the real terror, that evil of people working the system, with the collusion of the Umno state, there was always no evidence.
I have made this point many times - “Add to this, the complicated reality of security apparatus personnel navigating the petty fiefdoms and the allegiances of said fiefdoms to Umno warlords and potentates and the fact that Malaysia is a nexus for human trafficking, with the complicity - well-documented - of the security apparatus. This last part is extremely important because the unsanctioned flow of illicit human cargo is the conduit for Islamic extremists to leave and enter the country.”
Let me share this report from the trenches which I have never disclosed. A Special Branch officer, a good man who quit the game and moved to another country related this to me. There was this Burmese girl, who was looking for a new life in Malaysia. She was brought in by human traffickers with the collusion of state players where she was raped, tortured and sold to a local meth lab for “entertainment” for the indentured workers.
The police raided the lab but gave her back to the traffickers who recycled her back into the system. This Special Branch officer looked for her for two years. By the end of it, he was divorced, had a drinking problem and left the country. I have used the term “evil” in this piece. Could anyone really say otherwise?
We talk about reforming our institutions. We talk about change in Malaysia. We may not be able to reform the deeper problems of race and religion, but we can affect immediate change in our compromised institutions.
To me, the institution that needs reform the most urgently is our state security apparatus. I have seen online commentary of how, ever since Harapan took over, some folks are more at ease with the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) and other security institutions. This is the stupidest thing I have read in some time.
Stealing chocolates and food from the refrigerator of relatives of a kleptocrat may sound funny, but there are very real and dangerous problems with our state security apparatus. Wang Kelian happened in the dark shadows of our land. There are crimes committed in the urban centres which have a direct connection with places like Wang Kelian. We are not talking about isolated incidents. We are talking about a system that feeds into our lives, in ways we would never suspect.
The Harapan regime should expose the slavers and killers of Wang Kelian, discover what happened there and inform the public of the real nature of the corruption of our state security apparatus. They should expose how deep the rot goes when it comes to the abuse suffered by disenfranchised people, migrant workers and the rest under the boot of those colluding with crime syndicates.
By exposing the crimes committed by the state in Wang Kelian, we could be truly on the way of reforming our state security apparatus. There are good people in our state security apparatus. People willing to expose the wrongdoing of their colleagues. All they need is a government that supports them. By discovering what happened in Wang Kelian, by bringing the perpetrators to justice. By following the money trail - always follow the money trail - we could reform the system.
It all begins by revisiting our sins in Wang Kelian.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.