On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Time to take stock of how we deal with issues

The next day, he devoted one hour stressing to his listeners how China as an economic powerhouse would affect the world as a market, competitor or partner.

But on the tables of the participants, over the two days of the seminar, were newspapers filled with reports of how we have muddled up over the controversial video clip of a Chinese-looking woman in a police lock-up.

With the exception of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid, the approaches and comments made by certain officials have not been helpful .

Instead of calming down the situation, particularly towards China, these officials have caused further damage. In short, it was crisis management at its worst.

Taking swift action, the Prime Minister ordered the setting up of an independent committee of inquiry instead of leaving the probe to the police.

The logic is simple – the alleged culprits are a few police officers and to leave it to their peers to investigate would only invite criticism, if not suspicion. More so when seemingly defensive statements had been made by their superiors.

The controversy has taken a new twist with the police now saying that they have identified the woman in the video clip.

There were reports that the woman could be a Malaysian and not necessarily an ethnic Chinese, although the clip showed a fair-skinned person.

The findings of the police are expected to be handed over to the independent committee, which has been given a month to complete its task.

Despite public scepticism of the latest police findings, it is only fair that we keep an open mind.

It would be even better if the police can trace the woman to seek her cooperation for follow-up action.

Even if it is a Malaysian, the actions of the policewoman who conducted the strip-search and the person who filmed her can hardly be justified.

Be that as it may, it is best that the committee of inquiry be left to carry out its own investigations and to report promptly on its findings.

At the same time, it might be prudent for the police not to make statements suggesting that it would carry out an operation against the reported 50,000 missing Chinese nationals.

The figure has already been disputed and even Azmi and immigration director-general Datuk Jamal Kamdi had admitted the figures were inaccurate.

Newspaper editorials and comments by officials supporting such action would only add more confusion to the situation. Worse, it could even be misconstrued as a vendetta.

Our policy is clear – the country welcomes all tourists, regardless of their nationalities, but would act against any foreigner who overstays or violates conditions in the visit pass. There is no reason to single out Chinese nationals.

The statement made by Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Noh Omar that foreigners who were not happy could go back is a classic case of shooting ourselves in the foot.

He has been reprimanded although he pointed out that he did not mean what he said. His remarks were reported world-wide, much to the delight of our tourism competitors.

The top – that is our Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues – know the seriousness of the controversy but the downliners do not seem to grasp the effects of their actions.

They are not perturbed that the number of Chinese tourists has dropped by 45% during the first six months of this year, surely an alarming situation.

Yet the World Tourism Organisation estimates that the number of Chinese tourists overseas will expand 12.8% a year – triple the world rate – to about 100 million by 2020.

We must bear in mind that Chinese tourists are no longer just peasants with some extra money to spare but affluent consumers who can afford to buy Gucci, Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo. Think, please.