On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The numbers just don’t add up

We are told that there are only 60 licensed massage centres in the whole of Selangor, which means the thousands of such centres that we see are illegal.

That comes to one point – why are they able to operate openly in so many residential areas without the local councils cracking down on them?

Can the people be blamed for thinking there are elements of corruption involved, and strong suspicions of protection with powerful backing?

Or is it simply that enforcement is so pathetic the officers are fighting a losing battle against the massage parlour operators?

State executive councillor Ronnie Liu can be sure that no one in the state believes his claim that there are only 60 licensed premises and that the licences were issued before 2006.

After Pakatan Rakyat came to power, no new permits were issued, according to him.

One has to be a fanatical loyalist of Liu to believe this. Or, if we accept his claim, it simply means the state has been unable to stop the sprouting of these massage centres.

There’s another factor that makes the situation different from the other states – the political dimension of this multi-million ringgit service industry.

Liu himself has been the target of many allegations, including finger pointing by his own comrades, until DAP chairman Karpal Singh had to issue a directive ordering a halt to more discussions on the issue of support letters and allegations of cronyism.

Liu also got himself some unnecessary publicity in 2008 when he was arrested by the police for allegedly obstructing the Subang Jaya Municipal Council enforcement workers and police personnel who were raiding a suspected vice den in Puchong.

He was accused by the police of allegedly trying to stop the police and council workers who were trying to seal a shop lot which was used as an illegal massage centre.

The Pandamaran state assemblyman was arrested on the spot but released on bail. The next day, the police received an order from the Attorney-General’s Office to charge him. The court case is on-going at the PJ Magistrate’s court, with Liu being called to enter his defence already.

The Local Government, Study and Research Committee member has also sued former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Muhammad Khir Toyo for allegedly accusing him of immoral activities and involvement in vice.

Liu denied that he had obstructed the authorities from carrying out their duties.

Last year, Karpal Singh rescued him after his party leaders accused him of abusing his official state letter heads. A gag order was issued and the matter hushed up. He was let off with a “severe reprimand” from the party.

Liu survived that political storm but his assistant Tee Boon Hock, a Klang municipal councillor, found himself sacked from the party for allegedly misusing the letter heads to secure contracts for his cronies.

But there are more questions than answers to the massage centre issue in Selangor. Klang Municipal Council president Muhd Ikhsan Mukri has said there are 45 licensed massage parlours in Klang.

If there are only 60 licensed massage centres in the whole of Selangor, and out of this Klang has 45, that would make Klang the town with the highest number of licensed massage centres.

How Klang has managed to get all the licences is another question.

Muhd Ikhsan said that since the beginning of this year, 16 operations have been conducted and 81 premises were checked. He did not explain how they checked on 81 premises if there were only 45 legal ones.

Tee, who is now a sworn political enemy of Liu, has claimed there are 60 massage centres in Klang. He did not say whether they are legal or illegal.

In all fairness, there are many legitimate massage centres in Selangor. In fact, the operators of clean ones have to struggle, often on unfair terms and turf, against the illegal ones that offer sex services.

Many decent ones in Selangor offer family packages and have clear signs put up to say they do not tolerate sex services.

Certainly, there is bigger demand for massage services in Selangor because of the stressful lifestyle here. Most Selangor residents work in Kuala Lumpur but reside in the suburbs of Petaling Jaya. And massages have been proven to be able to relax the muscles.

I do not wish to rub it in. There is nothing wrong in issuing more permits for massage centres but to claim that no new permits are being issued and then we see such premises mushrooming, even in residential neighbourhoods, only smacks of poor governance.