Malaysiakini Letter

Public perception of the police wasn't got overnight

Har Wai Mun  |  Published:  |  Modified:

All of a sudden, issues such as race, corruption and Malaysian police brutality are making headlines. Yet, these issues did not come from nowhere or spring up overnight.

‘Malay’, ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’ are supposed to be a neutral adjectives to describe the origin of someone just like ‘thin’ and ‘fat’.

However, if these adjectives are institutionalised in an unfair manner over a long period of time, then it could become a big issue.

It will be interesting to imagine having a national policy that gives an advantage to overweight people but discriminate against skinny people. What will happen after one day? One year? Fifty years?

Let’s continue to imagine. After fifty years, some skinny people may not tolerate it anymore and get angry and start to criticise that policy. Should we blame them? Should we stop them? Jail them for the sake of maintaining harmony?

Applying the same analysis to a perception of the police force, their negative image did not develop overnight and out of nothing. Nevertheless, they should not be blamed completely too.

A continuous suppression of freedom of speech with the police as enforcers naturally puts them in bad faith with the public. Misusing the police force as a political tool is another factor.

In a bi-directional causality effect, these two factors in turn over-empower the police, hence providing breeding ground for misuse of power.

Nonetheless, it needs plenty of repeat cases of police mischief over a long period of time to enable a bad perception to develop. The reverse is true to change a perception from bad to good.

Therefore, the police force should wake up from its state of denial and be brave enough to confront reality. Particularly that related to the A Kugan case. They should be doing as their slogan saya: ‘Firm, Fair and Courteous’.

Please be firm in identifying and taking action against the responsible person(s) involved in Kugan’s death. Please be fair, which includes being transparent and declining any government intervention in this case.

Hence, the home minister’s outcry is not welcome; particularly his ‘Don't see criminals as heroes’ statement. I hope that the police and minister understand that nobody is a ‘criminal’ until having being found guilty by the courts.

Lastly, please show courtesy to the public whom you should protect with your integrity. Again, please realise that any ‘good’ or ‘demonic’ perception on anybody did not come from nowhere or just overnight.

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