Do Malays care about abuse of police power?

Do Malays care about abuse of police power?

By: Rama Ramanathan

On Sunday, at 5 pm, about 60 people gathered in the Esplanade, Penang, to commend Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission, Suhakam and to call on the government to act on Suhakam’s findings and recommendations on enforced disappearances and the police.

The gathering featured large banners, as can be seen in the photo. The banners were enlargements of the headlines of media reports.

One of the banners asked “Where are our husbands? Are we widows?” and included photos of Malaysia’s first officially designated disappeared persons, Amri Che Mat and Pastor Raymond Koh and their wives.

Those two questions had been uttered by the wives moments after an 18 month Inquiry by Suhakam concluded that the Police Special Branch, Bukit Aman, abducted and disappeared their husbands.

Those two questions went on to be media headlines. But what is striking about the headlines on the banners is that none of them were in Malay.

It could be that those who prepared the banners didn’t search for news reports in Malay, but I think there is another reason.

The Suhakam Inquiry received evidence, in public, on 45 hearing days spread over 18 months. Yet, its hearings received hardly any coverage in Malay mainline media. I’m not the only one who noticed this.

Professor Tajuddin Rasdi wrote on Monday:

Now, how did Malay dailies react to news on the enforced disappearances? I read all the Malay dailies, scoured through their pages. None of them carried the earth-shattering pronouncement by Suhakam.

One daily did print a rebuttal by a politician on the findings, buried on page 8.- FMT

Does the near total lack of reporting in the Malay mainline media mean that “Malays” don’t care that the police in Malaysia abduct and disappear people extra-judicially?

If you answer “yes,” you grossly misrepresent “Malays,” for at least five reasons.

First, two of the three members of the Suhakam Inquiry Panel were Malays.

Second, the Inquiry required evidence to be “taken” from witnesses by Suhakam officers in writing and later presented orally by the witnesses to the Inquiry; all the evidence-takers were Malays.

Third, Malay lawyers often appeared for the families of Amri and Raymond and for the Bar Council.

Fourth, one police Sergeant, a Malay, acting out of remorse, “told the truth” to Amri’s wife about who was behind both abductions – though he later, very clumsily, denied having done so.

Fifth, it was footwork done by Amri’s (Malay) friends, which found eyewitnesses who had crucial evidence about his enforced disappearance.

It should be clear from the above that many Malays care about abuse of power by the police. Why then did the mainline Malay media decide not to report the often explosive revelations made during the Inquiry?

The problem with the Malay mainline media appears to be that they exist: to “defend” rather than to “reform” institutions of the state.

I Googled “Utusan Suhakam Amri.” All the results I got were complaints or denials. These are the headlines – and photos – I got:

PDRM [Royal Malaysian Police] regrets Suhakam’s accusation – with a photo of the Deputy IGP.

Police willing to cooperate – with a photo of a police rugby team.

Suhakam: No directive from Zahid, Alwi – with a photo of ex Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Zahid Hamidi.

None of the reports had photos of Amri or Raymond or their wives, children and friends, or of the Suhakam commissioners. This emphasizes their focus on defence of the authorities.

I also Googled “Utusan Suhakam Shamzaini” since the most explosive evidence at the Inquiry concerned Sgt. Shamzaini of the Special Branch. No results included Utusan or any of the other mainline Malay media.

The data is clear. The mainline Malay media, over 18 months, decided not to report the Inquiry.

Thankfully other data shows that the problem is the mainline Malay media, not “the Malays.” I offer three examples.

First, some Malays attended the gathering in Penang.

Second, at the Inquiry several Malay police officers refused to lie. This resulted in the clumsy failure of “the police” to prove that “3 photos and a number plate related to Raymond Koh” had been found in the home of a suspect the police had shot-to-death. This jarringly showed the falsity of ex-IGP Khalid Abu Bakar’s claim that 60 year old Pastor Koh had been abducted by a trafficking ring.

Third, Malay writers such as Prof. Tajuddin, Dr. Faisal Tehrani and Mariam Mokhtar have exclaimed against the injustices exposed by the Inquiry.

So, the conclusion is inevitable.

The impression that “the Malays” don’t care about Suhakam, human rights and abuse of police power is false. It is also highly embarrassing for a nation whose national language is Malay that the Malay mainline media so grossly misrepresents “the Malays.”

Rama Ramanathan blogs at and is the spokesperson for CAGED, Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online.

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