Friday, April 19

Taking a closer look at the African community in Malaysia


LET’s take a look at the African community in Malaysia this week. Among foreigners working, studying or up to no good, Africans in the country actually are not that large in numbers compared to other nationalities like the Indonesians, Filipinos or Bangladeshis.

Of late however, Africans entering the country and staying for long periods are increasing. I like to believe that the majority of them are here for legitimate reasons like study and work. But then, you never know what they are really here for.

The recent spate of crimes involving these visitors to our shores are indeed worrying. The police are also paying attention and have launched operations to nab the bad hats from the community.

From police reports, I must say that some of the Africans staying in the country are posing a threat to the well-being of our people.

Let me give a brief run-down of the reported crimes committed by Africans over the past six months as reported:

April 13 – Kuala Lumpur police smashed an African phishing syndicate, which withdrew money from people’s accounts without their knowledge. The syndicate’s activities came to light when a victim lodged a report after RM5,000 went missing from her bank account. Following the report, police raided a house in Taman Putra Perdana and another in Bandar Bukit Puchong where they arrested five African men aged between 25 and 35. The initial investigation revealed that the suspects were also involved in other scams.

Aug 1 – Ipoh police smash a fraud syndicate dubbed ‘African scam’ following the arrest of four suspects, including two Nigerians in a raid in Nilai, Seremban. A teacher from Ipoh lost RM12,000 and a nurse from Taiping lost RM90,000 to the syndicate.

Sept 18 – In Johor Baru, a South African bride-to-be was arrested at Senai Airport for smuggling RM1 million worth of drugs into the country. The 22-year-old, a first timer visitor to Malaysia, claimed that she came to the country to look around for a place for her honeymoon. The suspect was remanded to assist in the investigation and the case is being investigated under Section 39B (1)(a) Dangers Drugs Act 1952. If found guilty, the suspect will receive the mandatory death penalty.

Oct 8 – Shah Alam police disclosed that African parcel scam syndicates are increasingly using local women as ‘bait’ to lure businessmen into the con game. The key players, usually African men, would first use female names to randomly contact potential victims via Facebook or email. The most recent case involved a 41-year-old man from Selayang who was cheated of more than RM76,000. So far, police have arrested two Malaysian women and seven African men in connection with the scams, which were also common in other states, including Kedah, Melaka and Johor.

Anyone reading such reports will certainly be wary of the presence of African nationals in their midst. Phishing syndicate, parcel scam, drug trafficking, African scam etc. Why? They are quite ingenious, aren’t they? They have come up with so many ways to con people.

Why are they here in Malaysia? For one simple reason. They can do ‘business’ here. Malaysians are such gullible people. How often have we read reports of our people being conned, some even cheated of their life savings?

You just have to talk to ‘Mr Fix It’ Datuk Michael Chong of MCA and he will have many sob-sob tales to tell you of people breaking down in front of him after having lost their hard earned money. Some through stupidity but many because of sheer greed.

It’s true that the criminal activities of some Africans have given the whole African community in the country a bad name. There is already a stigma and many Malaysians wisely choose to keep a distance away.

Last August, the Ridzuan Condominium in Bandar Sunway, Subang Jaya, decided to prohibit the rental of units to African nationals. It was a controversial incident.

The move could be misconstrued as a form of racial discrimination. Living in a multiracial country, Malaysians in general oppose any form of racism. However, given that the residents at the Ridzuan Condo AGM had voted for such a measure, it would be contradictory and ironic if they were to be accused of racial discrimination.

I may not necessarily agree with the decision but the rights of the residents and their security concerns have to be respected. After the numerous reports of Africans being up to no good, who could blame them from becoming wary?

Personally, I have seen the good and bad of Africans in our country. In St Ignatius Church, Petaling Jaya, where I regularly attend Sunday services, I have come across some nice and polite Africans. Just last Sunday after mass, I chatted with two of them after they greeted me in a very friendly manner. They told me they were students and have been in Malaysia for more than a year. They were decent guys and possibly genuine students.

However, I also came across the not so decent type. Recently, I was in a Cheras coffee shop with a friend. The place was almost empty initially but we were soon surrounded by more than 10 rowdy Africans accompanied by two women.

They were a noisy crowd, talked very loudly while enjoying their beer. I asked my friend what were they doing in the vicinity and he replied, “probably conmen”.

I didn’t have the mood to stay there with the rowdy bunch around, so my friend and I left soon afterwards.

Looking back, the only positive thing I can think of was that they were around to patronise the coffee shop. Otherwise, it would be empty.

I do not know whether there is a large presence of Africans in Sarawak. I hardly see any in Kuching. If they do infiltrate Sarawak for any reason, I hope the conmen-type stay away.

Well, like it or not, we have to tolerate the presence of foreigners principally because they provide the labour that we need.

Official figures cite at least 2.8 million foreigners in Malaysia. Up to 1.5 million foreign workers have the temporary working visit pass, while the number of illegal immigrants was 1.3 million as of August last year

As long as we are dependent on foreign labour, we will have foreigners as our neighbours, have them for company in our LRT, shopping malls and hospitals etc.

So, let’s learn to live wisely at all times alongside them.

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