On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The force needs racial balance in its ranks

I first knew Koh at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
I was a student at the political science department and he was doing a diploma
course in strategic studies, tailored for army and police officers.

A serious student, he would sit alone at the library to
catch up on his reading. After obtaining his diploma, he signed up for a degree
course, majoring in political science. Soon, we were sitting side by side in
the lecture hall.

There are many non-Malays like Koh who have done well in
the police force and their performances are recognised. Their Malay colleagues,
too, hold them in high regard.

As a uniform unit, the police have always been an attraction.
Many school-leavers, perhaps having watched too many movies, dream of donning
the dark blue uniform of a crime-fighter.

The reality is starkly different. The salary scheme needs
to be adjusted to give the officers more dignity and credibility.

Realising the need to inject professionalism into the
force, the royal commission of inquiry is currently looking into the welfare of

Last week, The Star published a letter from a graduate,
Jackson Chan, who wrote that he applied to join the force as a cadet assistant
superintendent but was worried that his chances were slim because of the small
quota for non-bumiputra applicants.

He returned from Australia
with a business degree but it had been his passion since schooldays to become a

According to him, his desire to join the force is based
on a rational analysis of his career and future.

Chan hoped that the Inspector-General of Police would
consider raising the quota and give young non-bumiputras a better chance to
join the force.

I hope the powers-that-be will give Chan a chance, if he
fulfils the requirements.

In fact, the police force is on a campaign to recruit
more non-Malays.

However, it appears that most of them prefer to become
police inspectors rather than constables for various reasons, including the
perception that career prospects are not good.

Chinese applications for constables totalled a mere 0.7%
between 1999 and 2000, and Chinese account for less than 5% of the
86,000-strong force.

On Saturday, Bukit Aman said it was in the final stages
of processing 5,912 applications for cadet ASP but only 50 would be selected.

However, the force stressed that there was no racial

According to statistics in 2000, the force received 5,209
applications for probationary inspectors from all races with almost 63% of
Indian interviewees picked to become inspectors against Malays (55%) and
Chinese (60%).

For the post of constable, 42% of Indian applicants were
selected, with Malays at 36% and Chinese, 27%.

Last year, the Dewan Rakyat was told that 9,918
non-bumiputras applied to become ASP and constables but only 1,137 were

It cannot be denied that a racially balanced police force
would be good for the nation. Applicants like Chan who studied finance and
business would be useful in tackling commercial crimes.

Brawn alone is no longer sufficient. More and more, the
force needs officers armed with various disciplines such as the sciences, law,
computer studies, psychology and communications.

That aside, the successes of the Special Branch during
the Emergency can be attributed, in many ways, to Chinese officers who
successfully infiltrated the Communist Party of Malaya.

Their dedication is recorded by authors like Aloysius
Chin and Tan Sri C.C. Too in their books on the workings of the Special Branch
in fighting the CPM.

The inability of the CIA in the United
States to fight terrorism, it has been
noted, is because it lacks officers of Arab descent.

It is only during a crisis that we understand the need
for readiness. The police force, which is responsible for internal security,
certainly understands this better than other agencies.

During the 1960 racial riots, I was only in Standard Two
but I remember the events clearly.

Staying in Kampung Melayu, Air Itam, in Penang,
many relatives were worried about my family's safety.

We did not have a telephone at home (and no mobile phones
then), so our relatives could not contact us. But they need not worry – our
Malay neighbours helped keep the peace in our area.

Besides, the police sent Federal Reserve Unit officers of
Chinese descent to our village to give us a sense of security.

The presence of the FRU officers was truly appreciated.

Realising the importance of a multi-racial police force,
the authorities are doing their best to correct this imbalance through numerous
campaigns, including getting its top Chinese officers to speak to youth

Public perception is as important as reality.