Saturday, December 26, 2015


On Sunday, about 20 men attacked a mobile phone store in the Kota Raya shopping mall, injuring two workers. ― File pic
On Sunday, about 20 men attacked a mobile phone store in the Kota Raya shopping mall, injuring two workers. ― File pic 

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 23 ― The Kota Raya brawl resembles the Low Yat racial riot from July, but the former may have stemmed from a lack of confidence in Malaysian law enforcement rather than simple communal tension.
Unlike the Low Yat case where claims that a Malay buyer was defrauded by Chinese traders were later disproven, the Kota Raya incident began as a genuine case of cheating.
According to reports, the victim in the Kota Raya incident ― who was purportedly forced to pay RM5,000 for four mobile phones that he said was initially offered for RM800 but was later raised to RM10,000 ― lodged a report with the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK).
Despite reports that the Tribunal for Consumer Claims had ordered the shop in question to return the sum, the complainant still went to Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM), which took it upon itself to “raid” the outlet and take RM12,000 in “compensation”.
This was followed by Sunday’s events in which about 20 men attacked the same store in the Kota Raya shopping mall, injuring two workers.
“I think this sort of vigilantism is not only a Malaysian phenomenon ― it's a worldwide phenomenon,” Dr Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told Malay Mail Online, noting the existence of debt collectors and bounty hunters in the US.
“I think nowadays people are sort of getting fed up with, for example, the proper legal and law enforcement process and are taking things in their own hand. It's a worrying trend, but it's not a uniquely Malaysian trend. You see that happening in the United States as well,” he added.
Such perceptions can be exacerbated by high-profile police action in political cases such as those involving dissent, compared to the less visible crime prevention efforts.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi last month lamented that Malaysians continue to perceive a high threat of crime despite police lowering the crime rate by 40 per cent in the past four years.
According to the United Nations 2015 Human Development Report that cited a Gallup poll, only 48 per cent of Malaysians said they feel safe walking alone at night, while slightly more than half, 57 per cent, had confidence in the judicial system.
Aside from the eroding faith in the local justice system, Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said there are also groups that feel they can act with impunity.
“When combined, you get a situation where people feel they just cannot wait for the authorities. But this is not healthy. We need to ensure rule of law is respected and both the authorities and the public need to work in it,” Wan Saiful told Malay Mail Online.
The growing trend in vigilante action also comes amid worsening communal ties in the country, which were highlighted by the racial overtones of the complaints in the Kota Raya incident.
James Chin, head of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, pointed out that instead of curbing such tendencies, government leaders were encouraging the segregation among Malaysians.
“We are slowing reaching a point where everything is seen through an ethnic lens, for instance the setting up of Low Yat 2. Even the simple act of buying a handphone now has a racial criteria before it,” he told Malay Mail Online.
“There is no leader in Malaysia who is capable to controlling the racist groups out there and that is why they are getting more daring with more outlandish stunts,” the political analyst added.

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