On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Police force must change with times

The past four months have certainly been a difficult ones
for the  country's top cop.

Before the sacking of Datuk Seri  Anwar
Ibrahim from the government and Umno, no one questioned  his tough policing methods. Some  even said that was the best way to  deal with rising crime rates, which  many blamed on the influx of illegal

Abdul Rahim's problems began  as the
political temperature went  up. For the
first time, the police  had to deal with
a situation they  never experienced

The police force was likened to  the
Mossad, the Israeli secret police, and described as thugs by Anwar and his

Abdul Rahim found himself  called with
unprintable names in  the Internet. To
some, the celebrated crime-buster had suddenly became a trigger-happy

Every reformasi supporter suddenly seemed to know of at least  one Bukit Aman relative who confessed that
Anwar had been injected with HIV virus at the order of  Abdul Rahim.

A careless remark, as a result of  a
prodding and judgmental British 
reporter, at a press conference 
turned out to be another mistake. 
He was seen as someone who became uptight.

As the chorus of criticisms became louder after Anwar turned up  at the Sessions Court on Sept 29  with a black eye, Abdul Rahim decided to
maintain his silence.

That didn't help. He was rumoured to have had a stroke and  that he was beaten by a Sultan.

Certainly no one, irrespective of 
political inclination, would condone 
the injuries inflicted on Anwar.

There have been doubts from the 
beginning that it was not possible 
for the police to investigate their 
peers  in this case, possibly
their  superiors  stemming from suspicion that senior officers
were implicated in the incident.

Certain quarters had called for  an
independent inquiry, and Datuk  Seri Dr
Mahathir Mohamad has  taken the right
step by saying he  would consider the

Some questions are still unanswered. Malaysians want to know  who assaulted Anwar and whether  the incident occurred while he was  on the way to Bukit Aman or while  being questioned. What were the  circumstances of the incident?  Were the police officers provoked?

Until investigations are completed and those responsible are taken  to task, the doubts and criticisms  will continue.

The police must try to appease a 
discontented public, and restore 
confidence in the force.

However, let us not be too quick  to
blame the system. Not all police 
officers are bad and it doesn't help 
to demoralise them further.

We seem to ignore or forget, for 
example, Abdul Rahim's role in disbanding the Al Arqam movement  and rehabilitating its members.

It was his special ties with the  Thai
police force which led to the  arrest of
Al Arqam leader Asaari  Mohamed.

Abdul Rahim also played a key  role in
ending the 45-year struggle  of the
Communist Party of Malaya.

It is all too easy to criticise without offering concrete solutions.  Having a Royal Commission of Inquiry for
every incident in this  country is hardly
the answer.

The police force would not improve even with such investigations. We need to
upgrade our system of criminal justice.

The days of communist insurgency and secret societies are over.  While we still cannot treat criminals with
kid's gloves, training and  modern
facilities are vital in dealing with modern-day crimes.

Senior officers without the benefit of legal, economics, accountancy or
political science education  should be
sent for such courses.

Malaysians, including the police  force,
must understand that  changes are taking
place and we  have to deal with these

We must appreciate the fact that  as
Malaysians become more educated, they will be more conscious  of their legal and political rights.  Such knowledge, even for the ordinary police
constable, is necessary  to protect the
integrity of the system.

Clearer laws are needed to define  our
legal rights.

We must take gradual steps to  overhaul
our system by throwing  out archaic laws
and preserving  those relevant to our

At the same time, we must not  forget
that for policing to be effective, it is necessary for policemen  to have authority and firmness in  dealing with criminals.

Rapists, robbers and murderers  are not
angels, no matter how hard  the liberals
try to convince us.

As in the case of a Filipino criminal who repeatedly raped his 10 year-old
stepdaughter, the NGOs  have been so busy
defending his  rights that they have
forgotten  about the victim.

Everyone talks of the rights of  the
individual without considering  the
welfare and rights of the community.

In dealing with an emotional  mob, a
certain degree of force has  to be exerted
as a deterrent measure. High-handedness on innocent  bystanders, however, must not be  tolerated.

Members of the force are accountable to the public. As law enforcers, they must
understand the  importance of
self-conduct and  self-restraint.

There are rules which they must  observe
under the most testing of 

It is significant that Abdul Rahim  has
taken responsibility for what  happened,
even if it is perceived as  belated. It
is an unselfish act which  our political
leaders and top government officers should perhaps  emulate from now.