Asia

Volunteer corps crackdown: Act within ambit of law, says Najib

Onus is ‘on people to reach out to authorities to work out how best to contribute to society’
Published: 4:04 AM, September 5, 2014
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KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has weighed in on a police crackdown on the Penang Volunteer Patrol Unit (PPS) after the country’s police chief declared the group illegal.

A total of 156 people, including two Penang state lawmakers, had been rounded up in relation to the unit — which assists the public in situations such as directing traffic, in times of disaster, and to patrol the streets as a preventive measure against crime. Most of them were detained right after they participated in a Merdeka Day parade on Aug 31.

The arrests and preceding warnings by the police had sparked a media war between Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, with the latter challenging the top cop to a public debate on the legality of the volunteer corps — which was formed by the opposition-run Penang state government in May 2011 and has more than 9,000 members.

Mr Najib yesterday said while the government welcomes civilian efforts to combat crime, they must act within the ambit of the law and cannot do as they please. He said the public should not challenge the authorities when it comes to law enforcement, stressing that this is the only way the country can maintain peace and security.

“There was a group that wore uniforms and gave themselves ranks ... they committed an offence. Anyone who commits an offence in the eyes of the law must accept the fact that the rule of law must prevail,” Mr Najib said, without naming the group.

“We cannot allow anyone to do as they please,” he added in his speech after presenting national medals of honour to police, military and civilian personnel.

Following the crackdown, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the police were also eyeing Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia’s Unit Amal volunteer corps as it is considered to be of the same status as PPS — prompting the party’s leaders to warn that they will “rise” if action is taken.

Mr Najib said the onus is on people to reach out to the authorities and work out the best way they can contribute to society through discussions and negotiations. He added that the public should not resort to challenging or threatening the authorities when their actions are criticised.

“Whatever we want to do, we can find the best way to do it based on discussions and negotiations, but not by challenges or threats, or debating out in the open ... what more if you are representing the administration. I believe the police would welcome any party that wants to contribute, but it must be based on rule of law,” he said.

The PPS controversy cropped up some time last week after a 51-year-old man lodged a police report saying he was assaulted by PPS volunteers. Following the report, leaders from the governing Barisan Nasional coalition demanded that the unit be put on ice, while Malay rights group Perkasa lodged police reports asking for a probe into PPS’ activities.

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