I ask myself why in a multi-ethnic society like Malaysia, where it’s quite natural to have villages and townships peopled more by one particular group, the police force interacting directing with the community are manned mainly or virtually by the Malays. For example, the desa (rural country) is of course inhabited predominantly by the Malays, while the Chinese like to live in cities areas. Then there is Sungai Siput, which has a large community of Indians.
Take Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and even Sungai Petani as examples - these townships have a greater congregation of Chinese Malaysians than in the rural districts. These are merely factors of history, business, family ties, land ownership (or lack of) etc.
Yet, strangely, when one looks at the personnel of the police force servicing those predominantly Chinese areas, there are hardly any Chinese cops. When I was a kid in Penang, there were a considerable number, even among the traffic police motor cyclists.
During the Emergency, when Malaysia was fighting against the communist insurgents, the Police Special Branch (SB) was staffed with Chinese Malaysians, because the enemy then was mainly Chinese. Those dedicated SB staff were instrumental in Malaysia coming on top of the Malayan Communist Party as a result of superior intelligence. I recall two police inspectors being awarded Malaysia’s highest gallantry award, the SP.
I wonder whether one can still see an ‘Ah Chong’ (Chinese Malaysian) in that department today.
I don’t believe in the old and oft-repeated excuse that Chinese do not want to join the Police Force or the Armed Forces – that’s sheer nonsense. Maybe they weren’t aware of the recruiting schedule, maybe they weren’t successful in their applications, or maybe they weren’t wanted. My neighbour’s son became a member of the Federal Reserve Unit while another served in the SB. A friend’s elder brother and uncle were in the CID.
As a kid, I wanted to be a cop but was stopped by my mother's tears (she played dirty). She was terrified of me becoming a member of the Police force because she feared that I could suffer the fate of one of my very senior uncles, a SB officer, who was assassinated by a terrorist.
In a pluralistic society like ours, it’s only commonsense that in an X-ethnic dominated village or town, we ought to have a majority or at least a decent number of the cops from the X-ethnic group serving the public, for reasons of language, understanding of ethnic culture, religious festivals and sensitivity, and a visual projection that the cops are not alien to the general population. And the wondertful part about Malaysians is we can provide a complete range of ethnic assets to deal with whatever ethnic special handling may be required.
The series of police scandals occurred in the Petaling Jaya station. Did the police station have one single Chinese policeman among its personnel in this urban suburb where many Chinese Malaysians domiciled?