Your 10 Questions with Datuk Mohd Zaman Khan

  • Business
  • Saturday, 19 Mar 2011

You once wrote that a policeman is always a policeman. How do you think being a policeman has changed since your time in the force? Jasper Tan, Kepong

Fate guided me to the police enforcement. If I was born again I will join the police. No doubt about it. There was never a dull moment.

The level of playing the role of a policeman has changed over the years. Citizens are well-educated and are conscious of their rights now; we are enjoying prosperity. Sadly, however, with that prosperity comes along many social-ills that surpass the happenings of yester-years; drugs, crimes, disrespect for the laws and discipline. Look at the blatant lawlessness on our roads. The expansion of the police force is not in tandem with the rapid social, economic and technological advancement and geographical expansion. The manpower shortage continues to be a problem. Perhaps acquisition of the right technology and training policy can overcome manpower shortage.

What was your proudest moment in your many years in the police force? MY Teoh, Shah Alam

I have many satisfying moments in my police career. Looking back, the most satisfying was the rescue of hostages in Pudu Jail in 1986 where there was no bloodshed. Thanks to the professionalism of members of the Special Action Unit (UTK) of which I was once a proud member. On that afternoon, the then IGP, Tun Mohd Haniff Omar had conferred with the crisis team and it was decided that negotiation with the hostage-takers should continue.

Soon after he had left, a golden opportunity knocked on my door. The director-general of Prisons who was assisting in the negotiation advised that the hostage-takers were relaxing and that the door to the prison clinic was ajar. There was an opportunity. However, instruction was to continue negotiation and to wait for further directions. With the backing of the UTK, I decided to act. In the lightning raid, the two hostages were rescued and the hostage-takers were nabbed. One hostage, Dr Radzi, had a small clean cut on his chin. They missed his throat. What a risk I took as the commander. The order was to continue negotiations; I countermanded that direction. Had I failed ... God knows.

As CID chief, what was the toughest thing you had to deal with? Carl Pereira, PJ

The hunt for the notorious Kalimuthu nicknamed Bentong Kali who was trying to set himself up as the kingpin of drug dealing in Kuala Lumpur. He was ruthless, brutal, and merciless to the point of being a trigger-happy murderer. At the same time, he was cunning and illusive. He was able to evade the police dragnet with the help of his many henchmen. A sizable group of men worked tirelessly round the clock for nearly three weeks to nab him. At one stage, when the hunt was becoming too hot for him and his men, he phoned me for a shoot-out. This was a good opportunity to draw him out. We soon located him and danced with him. It was our intention to get him alive; dead men do not talk. When he was cornered, he tried to escape by firing his gun. We had no choice but to shoot him. He had boasted that he would not be captured alive.

Those reporters (paparazzi) tracking the police and who were gathered at the scene, were doubtful if we had got Bentong Kali. Even Tun Mohd Haniff Omar, the then IGP, was unsure if my team got the right man. When I assured the reporters and the residents of the area that Bentong Kali is no more, for the first time in my police career, there was spontaneous ovation from the press and the public.

As director of the Internal Security and Public Order Division, you oversaw the Marine Police. What do you think about the plan to make the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency the sole enforcement agency in Malaysia? Did the Marine Police fail to perform its basic duty of safeguarding our sovereign waters for the last 60 years it has been in existence? Ganesan, KL

I have been involved with the Marine Police long before I was appointed the director of Internal Security and Public Order. The record is there for all to judge. They have contributed in no small way to the security of the nation on the seas during the Emergency and Confrontation. They have provided security and protection to our fishermen and supported the Royal Customs, the Immigration and the Fisheries Departments in anti-smuggling, illegal immigrants and encroachments. They have served admirably.

As long as 30 years ago, some quarters mooted the idea of the Coast Guard similar to that of the United States Coast Guard. The US Navy has a global perspective and the Coast Guard is tasked to look after its domestic waters. In the case of Malaysia, I do not think the TLDM has a global perspective other than the defence of our seas. TLDM should be given the budget to develop itself as a strong credible naval force to secure the sea lanes and our waters on the high seas. The Marine Police should be developed to continue its role as law enforcers in our territorial waters. Training and suitable equipment will enhance its capabilities.

The powers may have other reasons for mooting the idea of disbanding the Marine Police and its role taken over by the Malaysian Maritime Agency. I am not privy to their thinking and planning.

What was the most important thing you learnt when you were director-general of the Prisons Department? Faizal Mustaffa, Kuantan

When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, personally sought my agreement to be seconded to the Prison Department as the director-general to overcome certain problems within the police hierarchy I acquiesced with deep disappointment although I was accorded certain privileges. However, after three months into new territory, I realised that in prisons, there are human beings who need guidance and to be given a second chance, and most importantly hope and confidence. It was a blessing in disguise. I became interested in rendering help to those in need. I was converted from hard-hitting law enforcer to a more forgiving man. And in retirement, I decided to delve in Pemadam to steer youths away from drugs.

What made you decide to become an official of the Malaysian AIDS Council? Kim Yeoh, Malacca

My voluntary involvement is purely in the belief that I can contribute to efforts to bring about awareness on HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis B and C and TB to the public. As a member of the executive committee, I will be in a position to jointly plan and steer and also monitor the result of our staff on the ground.

What are the Malaysian AIDS Council's main steps in addressing the public's poor knowledge on AIDS? Mohd Faizal Abdullah, KL

MAC together with MOH have radically turned around its response to HIV and AIDS and has implemented a wide range of strategies to target high risk groups, as well as educate the general population about prevention. Although a concerted effort to tackle the epidemic is under way, the fight has by no means been won. Given the size and complexity of the country's epidemic, many challenges remain; well-coordinated efforts will be needed for continued progress. It is vitally important to take steps to make strategies to combat AIDS more than rhetoric: to ensure programme implementation at a local level and to respect the human rights of those living with HIV in Malaysia. Some of our continuous efforts include briefing, seminar, exhibition and awareness talks for the general public ie colleges, schools, corporate companies, government agencies, shopping malls, etc. Feel free to call the Malaysian AIDS Council at 03-4045 1033 or check out our website for more information.

What is Malaysian AIDS Council doing with law and policy-makers to challenge the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV? JV Leong, PJ

It's imperative we garner support from political and religious leaders, alongside NGOs in the response against HIV and AIDS. The nationwide effort to stop HIV and AIDS depends now, more than ever, on making sure that leaders understand the disease, stop the stigma and work together with all the other stakeholders in their states and districts to ensure the best possible delivery of prevention, treatment and care programmes.

You must have come across many young criminals who had wasted their lives. What is your advice to the youth of today? A. Kalaimoney, Penang

Malaysians as young as 12 years have been found to be involved in undesirable activities such as crime and misuse of drugs. We are delivered to this world to do good. The majority of our prison population are young people who can be productive. It seems that a substantial percentage of the prison population comprise youths between the ages of 14 and 20. What a waste! My advice is stay away from drugs and other unhealthy lifestyles. Crime does not pay. Live within your means and do not succumb to temptations. You are the master of your own destiny. There is a limit to what your peers can do. Be good and stay away from drugs.

Of the many leaders you have worked with over the years, in your various roles, who has inspired and impressed you a lot? Mindy Lai, Seremban

I have many gurus whom I admire and who had guided me in my career in the police. The late Tun Mohammad Salleh Ismail certainly stands out as one of those I admired. Then there is Tun Mohd Haniff Omar who steered the Royal Malaysia Police for 20 years. He stands no nonsense. He is a strict disciplinarian. He is also compassionate and fair. A friend is a friend but work is work. You would not be spared if you are found wanting in your work or behaviour. Suffice for me to say that he is truly a gentleman.

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