Shoot the children

From my old blog. Sorry, no will to draw a new one.

UPDATE: The Star has published the letter today (May 6) here.

The death of Aminulrashid Amzah at 1.30AM last Monday (Apr 21) is being railroaded away from the primary concern—the use of lethal force on a minor—towards negligent parenting, the child’s “criminal potential”, and various other forms of justification for shooting Aminulrashid in the head (it was too dark to see; there was, so the police say, a parang (machete) in the car so his intent to commit a crime may be determined ex post facto; etc).

Some people have gone so far as to argue in private that his mother Norsiah Mohammad should be charged, though with what exactly they can’t say. Aiding and abetting the commission of an unspecified crime? Criminal negligence leading to manslaughter (of her own son)? I pose the equivalent question: if a child attacks his mother with a kitchen knife, for whatever reason, should the mother be charged with attempted suicide?

If, as the Inspector-General says, the vehicle being driven my Aminulrashid must be considered a dangerous weapon, then we impute intent to kill on the boy’s part. This is unproven, and now unprovable because he is dead. And even if it were provable, the law prevents a juvenile being subject to a death penalty. How then is it right that the police should execute a child extra-judicially on whatever grounds?

I don’t blame people for not having a view, or having an idiotic one. If they rely on the Government and mainstream Press as the main methods by which their opinions are shaped, then this is the result of it and has been so for at least 10 years since we began the general lobotomisation of the population.

What I do blame them for is their stubborn refusal to distinguish between right and wrong themselves—it is no one’s right, and especially not the government’s, to dictate to anyone the limits and direction of moral understanding. That is a personal responsibility and the acceptance of established ethical codes such as the law, or precepts of religion, must stem from individual understanding of these precepts.

Otherwise it is hypocrisy or, worse, willing enslavement.  We know a law to be good because we understand it to be good and not because someone else tells us it is. Isn’t this painfully obvious?

And yet we have a ridiculous front-page lead from yesterday’s Sunday Star (May 2), to which I responded thus:

Sir,

Has civic responsibility failed to such an extent that we do not recognise the idea of subjecting adolescents to a national curfew, with their identity cards to be checked by “social workers or police after 11pm” (Concern over teenagers hanging out late at night, May 2) as reactionary, authoritarian and unconstitutional?

I should have thought it obvious enough that a parent’s duty to his or her child includes educating that child in personal responsibility and safety. To relegate even a part of that duty to the state, beyond national education, is a ludicrous admission that Malaysians are on a very basic level unfit to be parents.

Maybe this is so; and maybe we are so morally feeble that our first instinct when faced with children staying out late is to assume it is a “growing phenomenon” — some kind of crime or anti-social “indulgence” — and without really proving our case we react in typical knee-jerk fashion by appealing to some form of sweeping national policy.

Why? Is it because we lack the backbone to stand up as good examples for our own young? Are we incapable of discipline?

And who are we really to demand that our children do as we say when we fail so spectacularly to maintain even rudimentary standards of civil behaviour (let alone serve as good examples) on the road, in shopping complexes, other public spaces and even at home?

Really the only way to “police” minors effectively is to have them do it themselves. They must be taught to tell right from wrong and to choose the right path of their own volition: anything else would be fatuous tyranny that does nothing but ridicule authority in general, and the only way we can achieve this is to act responsibly ourselves.

A chief responsibility right now is to recognise that children will undoubtedly make mistakes, as will we — such is the nature of being human — but whatever the case no child should have to fear being shot in the head, no matter what time it is.

Ultimately if we treat the young without respect, we lose all right to expect any in return.

U-En Ng

Kuala Lumpur

Patrick has already posted this on his blog, but what I did not say in my letter was the The Star was at best incredibly stupid to cite an opinion (i.e. that staying out late was a “growing phenomenon”) as quantifiable fact. If you read the original story you’ll find that the director-general of the Nat. Population and Family Development Board provided only opinion polls in support of her argument and furthermore said this: “Teens staying out late at night are a common thing. Six years ago, it was the top disapproved activity and now, although we don’t have the actual figure, it seems to be growing.

I don’t blame the director-general for being an ass: such is the way of things now. But I blame The Star for dressing up a ridiculous opinion as a fact, and then having the gall to go around obtaining follow-ups on that basis. At best it is stupid, but I believe it is deliberate propagation of idiocy and, alone, deprives The Star of any claim to represent the Fourth Estate. They then wonder why people are turning away from the Press.

In any case the Prime Minister said yesterday that he “hoped” the police would “cooperate and not cover up to protect anyone,” adding that “the public wants answers. We cannot be defensive.”

That statement is about as strong as attacking Fort Knox with a piece of boiled cabbage. The Prime Minister doesn’t speak for me. I want answers, yes, and I also want his cousin’s idiotic head on a plate,  but that doesn’t mean I will get it.

We approved RM12.4 billion in federal funding to the Police over the past three budgets for 20082009 and 2010 (this last is a pdf of the PM’s budget speech). Are we saying that despite this we still cannot provide for safe streets in Shah Alam—safe enough at least for Aminulrashid to fool about with his sister’s car without running the risk of being shot as a suspected criminal?

Are we saying that, instead of recognising what we all know to be critical problems in the police, we should instead provide them additional power to persecute children? What do we propose they should do if, as a result of the curfew, some kids are found to be out of the house without proper “papers”? Shoot them in the street?

[And last night the police raided a Selangor state government youth outreach programme in Shah Alam (again), injuring a college student. The pretext was that they were acting on complaints from “residents” (the event was at Dataran Shah Alam, a public space) and the operation was apparently conducted jointly with the Shah Alam City Council and the Department of the Environment.

The City Council denies this—it was a co-organiser of the programme and Councillor Azli Yusof was present at the event in that capacity.

And the Home Minister expects me “not to have a negative perception of the police force” ?]

7 thoughts on “Shoot the children

  1. Gosh, what is this world coming to. Or better yet, what is THIS country coming to. Great article. Keep up the good work!

  2. Dear U-En,
    An article well written. I think one would agree by now after multitude of case reports on police brutality and unnecessary use of firearms have destroyed the dignity and integrity of PDRM. The fact that Home Ministry requested the public not to form an unbiased opinion towards the police is a direct insult to the intelligence of the “rakyat”. After numerous cases, ranging from A.Kuga to Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s case, how could one expect to have faith towards both the judiciary and the police institution?
    It’s a blatantly obvious how these authorities exercise their duties with discrimination. The “rakyat” can see for ourselves the kind of dirty politics being practiced in every level of government institution, right from the “foot soldiers” police force, to the governing Home Ministry.
    One ought to learn by now not to believe reports in the printed media. The Minister of Home Ministry even had the audacity to ask the “rakyat” to be fair to the police! Someone please tell me he was just joking!
    Well written post! Keep up the good work!

  3. Spot on. Many forget that lifestyle changes have been rapid with the IT revolution. Live football telecasts in the wee hours of the morning at the Mamak are one way kids hang out with one another.
    Anyway, what are the ‘qualifications’ of most cops on patrol? Many are ‘kids’ themselves having done not well enough after their SPM to further their education. (one can reach Forms five even if ‘illiterate’ under our automatic promotion education system) After 7 months or so of training, they don uniforms and are entrusted with our security. Does anyone know how old the cops in this incident were?

  4. To top it all, today’s Star paper reported that the IGP, on his comments on the press conference at which the witness spoke, said, qoute..”To a question about main witness Azamuddin Omar’s disclosure to the media on Monday about what allegedly happened that night, Musa said he did not wish to comment, saying that Azamuddin would have to tell the truth in court later.” unqoute.

    The IGP’s reported statement implies that the witness was not telling the truth at the press conference.

    The police can give their version to the press on what transpired in any incident, but when other parties do likewise to counter the statements by the police, they are “shot” down by saying that it is unethical for them to go to the press. Hello! Who was it that went to the press first?……….accusing the boy of being a criminal?…….reversing the car with intend to injure the policemen?

    The Star further reported that the IGP goes on to say, qoute.. “If that was the case it would be better for the trial to be conducted through the media and my officers can also give statements through the media,” he said. Unqoute.

    God save this Country!

  5. Sounds like the IGP takes the public’s lives with much cavalier. Just for once out of so many incidences of unwarranted use of firearms by the police towards the public is made public, the IGP gets so defensive. I thought he mentioned the investigation will be conducted with transparency.
    Most of the time, the victim of such “incidence” often death, hence, the version that we got to know is from the police. Eg. The case of Dr Tai Eng Teck here he was shot dead by a policeman when there wasn’t any incidence that endangers the policeman’s life?
    Now we have an invaluable witness to the incidence, and the IGP has the audacity to question his statement. He indirectly indicated Azamuddin was lying.
    The Police force by now has totally lost its credibility to uphold justice and law. They are the ones who should be scrutinized from time to time.
    It hypocritical to say the press conference held was unethical? What about the unresolved case of A. Kugan? the acquitted policeman who shot dead Dr Tai, all those who was involved with the death while under police custody weren’t punish, but merely being given desk jobs. What do you call that? Ethical?
    How to respect PDRM when they are licensed criminals themselves. I experienced first hand, when I was stopped for a traffic offense, yes, i was talking using my handset while diving. I was stopped by the policeman, who asked me to wind down my window, and half of his body was in my car. He told me he would issue me a summon and get my record tainted, or chose to pay them instead.Yes, they were that direct.
    I insisted upon the summon, and he repeatedly asked me whether am I sure if I wanted it. Eventually, he started indirectly threatening me by asking my age, and how was it possible at such a young age I was able to drive a Perdana!! Look how low these officers can stoop!
    If you being trigger happy, and as a consequences, a life is loss, now PDRM have to face the music!!1

  6. Check this out, if you haven’t already: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/5/5/nation/20100505143152&sec=nation

    “He [Hisham] said politicising or sensationalising the case would only lead to open discussions that did not look at the issue rationally, and this would prove counter-productive to the ongoing investigation.”

    Open discussions = irrationality. Closed discussions, invoking the Official Secrets Act… that’s rational? Ongoing investigation? What investigation? A Ministry probe isn’t an investigation.

    But there’s more:

    “I, too, am saddened by the fatal shooting and symphatise with Aminulrasyid’s family. But I ask that they give us a chance and place a little trust in the parties involved in the investigations.”

    It is because we DON’T trust the cops that there is a problem. And why don’t we trust them? It’s got nothing to do with politics, or supporting Parti Pembangkang or whatever. It’s because guys like chee hung, who try to *comply with the law*, are intimidated by the bloody Police into breaking it (and he stood up to them. Well done!).

    And there’s even more:

    “I call on all sides to be patient and put aside their emotions, as well as any prejudice against the police.”

    No, I think we should get REALLY DAMNED ANGRY. We have been patient for too long and look where it’s got us. We’re not prejudiced against the police. We demand only that they are accountable servants of the law. Is that prejudice?

    IPCMC. That’s all we really have to say. Musa Hassan took all the money recommended by the Royal Commission, but singularly FAILED to uphold the public interest. Instead he threw a tantrum and threatened to pull his “men” off the streets.

    The public is angry, but are they prejudiced? Are they pre-judging the cops when so many fatal shootings have gone unexplained? When rampant corruption is dismissed as “a few bad apples”? When huge budgets, intended to increase pay and thereby reduce corruption, end up going to “operating expenditure” with no further account of how the money’s spent?

    Is asking these questions prejudicial?

    But I doubt that a stunted feeble little mind like Hisham’s is able to comprehend anything beyond how to open a tin of beer.

    Sorry la guys. I angry-bangry.

  7. We need a law to protect against police abuse of power like the Poloce and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) in UK.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s