Another youth, this time 17 years old, has been shot by the police in unclear circumstances. Mohamad Azizi Aziz, a night-market trader, is alleged to have been a Mat Rempit (illegal motorcycle racer). He was shot in the stomach after fleeing from a police patrol car, riding in a zig-zag manner, and refusing top stop when directed. This took place early yesterday morning (3.30am, Friday 7 May).
This time, however, the officer in question (a constable) was suspended immediately for violating the Inspector-General’s standing orders, presumably concerning the discharge of firearms (I say “presumably” because the Inspector-General has so far shown no inclination to let the rest of us into the secret of what his standing orders are).
Negri Sembilan police chief SAC (1) Osman Salleh described the shooting as “an abuse of power”, given the absence of an immediate threat posed by Mohd Azizi, and has apologised to Mohd Azizi’s family. Berita Harian adds that, according to Osman, Mohd Azizi may have been hit by a warning shot. (I have BH delivered, in case you were wondering.)
Aziz Omar, Mohd Azizi’s father, has filed a report and initiated what I imagine to be a claim for damages. On the face of it, I think SAC Osman did the right thing to suspend the constable pending an inquiry, and I find his readiness to admit fault admirable in a profession that is led by someone seemingly determined to avoid having to answer to anyone for anything, even when Fault has put two of its fingers up his nostrils.
I do not doubt, however, that the Solicitor-General will have a few questions for SAC Osman about throwing away the Government’s case before it even begins, but I think he should be commended for his honesty and professionalism in handling this case.
From the public’s point of view, does this case differ in principle from that of Aminulrasyid Amzah? I don’t think so, and I think it should be obvious that it doesn’t: The question is not what parents are doing (or not doing) with their children. It’s not what young people do at night in vehicles. It’s not what they intend to do, criminal or otherwise.
The only question we have to consider is whether or not the use of a firearm by the police was justified in either circumstance. SAC Osman understands this. I wonder why so many other Malaysians seem to have trouble grasping the concept.
I understand that a lot of people are (and, I believe, rightly) concerned by the problem of rising crime in our society, and this applies both to urban and rural communities. I have read and heard a number of opinions, as a result of these latest incidents, praising police action in “shooting first” and asking questions later, if at all. The legal process, some declare, is waste of time and public money. Crime is urgent, and needs to be addressed immediately and with overwhelming force.
People are afraid, and it is out fear that they condone actions they would otherwise deplore in more peaceful times. In such circumstances people will jettison the rule of law that enables society to function in the first place. Out of desperation the majority will exercise its democratic right to subject itself to tyranny. It has happened before, and it will happen again.
But street crime, says the Home Minister, is mostly the result of the wagging tongues of women:
[The] Umno vice-president admitted that with regards to street crime, he would only give the police a six.
However, he said that the level of street crimes was exaggerated by the continuous chattering that made it seem worse.
“Most victims are women. What do women do? They go to the hairdressers… they chit-chat and suddenly it is everywhere and cause people to fear,” he joked.
If this is a joke then it is the kind told by the village idiot. Opposition party leaders (i.e. Kit Siang, Izzah and my own MP Teresa) as well as Ivy from the WAO have demanded an apology.
I am disappointed that, even now (8.45pm, Sunday 9 May) no statement has been issued by the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development. Or perhaps it has been issued but no agency has carried it. Or perhaps the Chief Whip as invoked party unity (this happens quite frequently, in case you’re not Malaysian and are wondering what I’m talking about). In any case the most recent story to issue with Women’s Minister Shahrizat Jalil’s name in it is a fatuous remark about the benefits of living in longhouses.
But what is wrong with the Home Minister’s little joke? Firstly it makes light of street crime and crime in general. If it’s merely exaggeration, then I must insist that he provide some kind of proof so we have something to tell this young woman, or the family of this lady, or this young woman’s mother, or any of the various victims of street crime reported here.
Secondly, his little joke, even as a joke, assumes that women habitually overstate concerns about their safety, and that, as a result, these concerns should not be taken seriously. More particularly it trivialises violence against women and betrays a fundamental tendency towards discrimination against women as weak, petty, gossipping spreaders of false news.
The Home Minister’s statement is a reckless demonstration of ineptitude and smacks of a fundamental insecurity, and I wonder why Shahrizat Jalil has allowed the opposition, yet again, to steal the march on her own ground.