It takes two to tango

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Every policeman is responsible for ensuring that members of the public observe law and order in society – an honourable profession often ignored by the beneficiaries. — Bernama photo

I READ with interest the revelation made by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Malaysia Tan Sri Razarudin Husain, in respect of bribe-taking by nameless police officers and personnel (Bernama / The Borneo Post, Feb 5, 2024).

Coming as it did from the Chief himself, there is no question about the credibility of that revelation. He may have the latest statistics to back up his statement.

My salute to the Chief!

I wish the heads of other government departments and government-linked agencies having power of arrest would likewise reveal the existence of corruption amongst their personnel.

Low pay, individual attitude

The IGP attributed the low pay and individual attitude of the personnel in the force as two main factors that could influence the cops to accept bribes.

While the problem of low pay may be solved by paying the policemen and women more if the country can afford the expenditure, the individual attitude is not as easy to solve as you think.

It has become a habit of the man concerned: accepting bribes as a habit like an opium addict in terms of consumption of dangerous drugs.

Why man? Because very seldom do we hear about any policewomen getting into trouble with the law on corruption.

Other factors

It is also important to look at other factors, which aid and abet the impulse to take bribes in exchange for favours given by the law enforcer.

It is the habit of human beings to give bribes as a way out of trouble, especially in a society that is over-regulated.

In many of such modern societies, one commits some crime every day.

Law and order

The policeman is to ensure observation of law and order in society.

It is his powers to investigate and authority to arrest (and in the old days, during the colonial days, the authority to prosecute) that enable the policeman to accept bribes, if offered.

Supposing you strip all these powers from them, and supposing no criminal will not offer any bribe to any policeman, there would be no offer of bribes and there would be no acceptance.

It takes two to tango.

Kleptomania

Humans entrusted with political power through the conferment of power by some authority or via the ballot box, have all the opportunity in the world to offer and take bribes.

A few years ago, the Malaysian government had the distinction of being called a kleptocracy – a government by politicians with a problem called ‘kleptomania’.

The Oxford Dictionary of Law, 1983, defines kleptomania as: “A mental disorder leading to the irresistible impulse to steal.”

Such politicians, having that kind of mental problem, but in a position to exercise authority to dispense favours, are likely to fall into temptation to enrich themselves by dipping their paws into the government’s kitty.

Human frailties!

‘Peace offerings’

The whole concept of ‘peace offerings’, which human beings in many cultures have adopted since time immemorial, is basically a form of bribery.

In my younger days, I used to travel to the remote parts of Sarawak.

I met people of many cultures. Some people offered food and drinks to the gods in return for the gods’ assumed promise not to disturb the humans.

At a spot along the path to his house, my host had erected a small hut in which he had placed a china plate stacked with food and drinks.

“These are for the ‘antu rua, antu rangka’ (for the hungry and the wasteful spirits),” he explained.

“I mean you ‘suap’ (bribe them)?” I inquired.

“Yes, otherwise they ‘ngacau ngirau kami sabilek’ (harassing my family members).”

I asked: “Have they been benevolent since they have got the necessary beverage?”

“Better results – catching more fish this year than the previous,” he said, smiling from ear to ear.

Hang on – there is another story, of defiance.

One of my close relatives has been catching ‘udang galah’ (prawns) in a river infested with man-eating crocodiles. He is not exactly a regular churchgoer, but he does not believe in bribing the crocodiles in return for his safety.

Crocodiles, being territorial, do not wish to have a competitor for food source; he, like my relative, is a real competitor.

According to Chan’s father, the crocodiles are the kings of the rivers and due recognition of their power is expected from the villagers. To avoid being caught by any of them, give and throw dead dogs or cats or chickens into the river from time to time.

Notice that there is thus the instinct in me to advise my relative to deal with the beast by bribing his competitors because I fear for his life.

See how humans behave and how the crocs can blackmail you. So corruption will be with us, like it or not, as long as the ‘Buaya Darat’ (the ‘Land Crocs’) are entrusted with unbridled political power in the country.

The corruption among the police personnel is relatively small.

Do not offer any bribe to any of them if you are caught driving through the red traffic light.

The traffic police on duty must act accordingly, take down the necessary particulars of the driver and submit the report to the senior officer in charge of traffic offences for further action.

Be prepared to appear in court to defend yourself. And see what happens.

Unless I see the statistics, I do not think most police personnel of any rank habitually take or accept bribes just because of the low pay.

Those who do accept bribes are in the minority anyway, but unfortunately, these black sheep are enough to pull down the good name of the force.

Black sheep are found in most organisations, especially government departments or government-linked organisations, simply because they are given legal powers and authority to investigate and to take action in matters relating to commission of crimes.

Stop giving bribes to any such holder of powers, and nothing will happen to you.

Repetitious, yes. That is the whole truth.

Money politics

The prime time for bribes is the election time. Candidates seeking political power via the ballot box give money, or a promise to give money or in kind, to potential voters to go and vote for them.

Political parties need a lot of money for their activities. The donors of money expect something in return – something important from the candidates once they are in power, or when their party is in power or in position to dish out favours in return to ‘investment’ – in the form of a profit-making project, or lucrative business deal, or an honorific title (for the status seekers).

That is our culture.

I do not know how to change that culture; only the man himself changes for the culture of stubborn denial to bribe for a job known as a ‘favour’.

The giver of the bribe is as guilty as the receiver!

Be unkind for a change.