PDRM – So far so good - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, April 06, 2020
The duties of an officer are the safety, honour, and
welfare of your country first; the honour, welfare, and comfort of the
men in your command second; and the officer's own ease, comfort, and
safety last.– George S Patton
Malaysiakini : COMMENT
| One of the more interesting aspects of the movement control order
(MCO) is that the average rakyat has had more interactions with the
state security apparatus, specifically the PDRM. This is funny, of
course, because if people were seriously following the MCO, they would
not be interacting with the police.
While the press and social
media highlight the negative encounters between the citizenry and the
police, anecdotally speaking, I believe for the most part the experience
has been positive. Public relations officers of the PDRM tell me that
when they make an “arrest”, they are merely following their standard
operating procedure (SOP) and while they understand that some folks will
be upset, they are always mindful of the way it plays out in social
very senior police officer asked me to relay the message to readers to
separate their politics from how they view police action at this time.
He is very well aware that a certain segment of the population does not
trust the PDRM and the words of politicians and some police officers
have made it worse. Howdever, he said, the police force just wants to
ensure the safety of everyone.
He said that every day he is
worried that a news story breaks showing the PDRM in a bad light or
people behaving badly with the police. In both situations, political
parties and their supporters cause more problems for the police by
either justifying bad behaviour (sometimes using racialist language) or
demonising the police force.
True, the police personnel I speak
to are mostly from the urban enclaves but from what they tell me and
indeed from numerous readers - again anecdotally – the PDRM has been
professional in executing their duties. The police personnel I speak to
(sometimes working in concert with military personnel) have expressed
surprise that for the most, part citizens are polite and understand the
need of the MCO and generally are supportive of government actions.
problem has always been that the political class makes these orders and
people are left wondering about how exactly they are going to be
implemented. Now, what the government has done right is to allow the
PDRM a certain level of discretion when it comes to controlling
movement. This presents a whole set of variables, which sometimes make
enforcement seem arbitrary.
Charles Hector is correct when he wrote:
“During this period when Malaysia is facing the Covid-19 threat, normal
procedures and practices of administration of criminal justice should
be abandoned in favour of the observance of the intention of the MCO. “If
the police detain them, then it is certainly a violation of the very
intention of the MCO – social distancing, among others. The suspects,
the arresting and transporting officers, all those in the police
station, are put at risk of infection. Lock-ups hold many other
detainees, which are usually overcrowded.”
TK Chua, in his letter
puts it succinctly: “I would prefer that the authorities warn and fine
the violators on the spot rather than arresting and putting them in
lock-ups. Only violators who remain stubborn and uncouth are to be
funny thing is, that nearly every police personnel I spoke to expressed
the same point as Charles and Chua. They did not view people who broke
the MCO as “criminals” and they most certainly did not think it was wise
to round them up in this time when everyone is supposed to be social
“Orang atas mesti tell us to release people or issue kompaun on the spot,“ a young police officer told me, standing the required distance apart while having coffee, late one evening. “Kita tak mahu arrest orang,“ he said “tapi isu kompaun lebih senang dan selamat”.
said he and his colleagues have heard all sorts of excuses as to why
people are going out and they have learnt to spot the fakers from the
genuine cases. He is of the belief that if people know they will get
fined if they go out without proper reason, they will stay at home.
his experience, the young police officer added, people with genuine
reasons to be out could, normally, prove the necessity of their outing,
with documentation and such. He believes only a small section of the
population intentionally wants to break the MCO orders.
man told me that he thought there was going to be an issue with taking
his wife for her pre-natal appointments, which would take them beyond
the 10km radius limit. This was before the government had firmed up the
policy, making exceptions and such. At the police roadblock, a young
soldier directed the couple to speak to his “police superior” to get the
The young father-to-be did this, offering his wife’s
medical card, and talking a bit to this “senior” police officer, and he
and his wife were allowed through the road. It was a pleasant drive
through KL with very little traffic”, this young man said.
was interesting to me, and this was not the first example that was
related to me about how well the military seems to be working with the
PDRM. At least publicly – which is the most important aspect – the
military and the PDRM seem to be working in concert.
police personnel have told me that so far there have been no major
hiccups when it comes to working with the military, which was one of
their initial fears when the military was brought into the picture.
young police officer – a recent mother herself – said the PDRM just
wants people to be safe. She is manning the helplines but she sometimes
has to help out in hospitals, which essentially puts her in harm's way.
just wants the people to know that the PDRM is not “interested” in
arresting people. In fact, when the roads and public spaces are empty,
most of them breathe a sigh of relief because it makes their job safer
and they do not have to get tough with recalcitrant people, which makes
their job even harder.
What the political class needs to understand is the spirit and intent of the MCO is protective, not punitive. Enforcement should reflect this.