Cry for public security
by Lian Cheng. Posted on August 4, 2012, Saturday
WHEN a businessman was shot in Sibu in broad daylight in January, apparently while shopping for a safe, Sarawakians were shaken and dismayed.
But then it happened in Sibu, a place which over the years, has, rightly or wrongly, gained notoriety as a ‘cowboy town’ and so after the initial frenzy when even senior politician weighed in with a call for more public security, people just shrugged their shoulders and went on with life.
Six months later, just when the Sibu shooting was fading from public memory, another violent crime occurred at a public place — this time in Kuching.
A female senior manager was having breakfast with her husband when two men forcibly held her down and chopped off one of her hands in front of petrified patrons and stall operators.
Who would have resorted to such a heinous crime to exact so horrific a punishment in a busy coffeeshop?
The rumour mill went into overdrive and the police had to calm things down by assuring it was an isolated incident and probably had something to do with personal matters.
The public were not quite convinced but resigned to the fact that this would likely go down into the annals of crime prevention as another unsolved public assault.
Two weeks later, out of the blue on a normal Thursday morning, another bang!
A man was shot dead at a high-end residential area in Kuching in a crowded coffeshop.
The incident aroused the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ in the man in the street and from coffeeshops to private offices, many, trying to unravel this spate of violent crimes, invariably ended up concluding that the underworld had a hand in all them.
Even as the public were still trying to figure out the reason for the chilling attacks, a businessman in Miri was gunned down mafia-style in broad daylight at a traffic light along a busy street.
The police were at pains to explain these crimes, committed in crowded public areas, were isolated cases, fuelled by personal grudges, and the targets were specific, unlike the shooting rampages in some countries, especially the US.
State Police Commissioner Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani insisted that Sarawak was, in fact, a very peaceful state and the four terrible crimes were, in fact, the only major violent crimes committed so far this year.
On that score, he was right. We are a long way from degenerating into a ‘Mexico’ where drug cartels battle each other for territories, in process killing thousands, many of whom are innocent bystanders.
And to politicians such as Public Utilities Assistant Minister Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi, the public had no cause of worry as all three victims were ‘personalities in question’.
Although what Rundi and the Acryl said make sense, the public are still doubtful – there are “too many dots” and they wonder if these are somehow connected.
However, such crimes are actually a ‘red herring’ because they take our focus away from the fundamental worry of the public – the seeming impotence of the police in bringing criminals to book.
The people are perturbed that some quarters could take laws into their own hands with such impunity. Our society has not descended into lawlessness but if criminals could shoot people in broad daylight or chop someone’s hand in public, we have a right to demand that the situation be speedily addressed.
The public want the cases solved – and the assurance that criminals will be prevented from committing such violent crimes in public and getting away with them.
The public have a right to such an assurance lest these ‘a few violent cases’ become more frequent and spill into the mainstream of our society.
Sarawakians are not so naïve as to expect a zero-crime society.
In fact all this while, they have been putting with the worrying frequency of house break-in and snatch theft cases.
Most did not even bother to report to the police unless their documents such as identity cards were lost in the robberies or thefts. To many, it is an exercise in futility to report as the chances of recovering the lost items or money is almost nil.
To be fair to the police, snatch thefts and break-ins are extremely difficult to solve as the criminals would have fled the scene by the time the cops arrived.
Perhaps, prevention is better than cure in this situation. The police could increase their presence at housing estates, shopping malls and other public areas.
The people on their part could take more precautions and be more alert to avoid situations where they could fall victims of snatch thefts and robberies.
We do not expect a utopia where everyone is a law-abiding citizen and we understand the challenges faced by the police in combating crimes but the public need an assurance that something can be done and is being done to stem the tide of rising violent crimes, so brazenly committed in public places.