I WAS happy that the police launched an all-out war on online gambling activities in the country. In a highly-publicised campaign, the police conducted raids against all known illegal gambling sites, who usually operate under the guise of cybercafes.
A special team to combat illegal gambling, vice and secret societies, known as Special Tactical Squad 3, was scheduled to begin operations last month, the Dewan Rakyat was told in October last year.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the special team, which had a strength of 200 officers and members, would conduct raids and searches at premises which organised gambling activities nationwide.
The government, he said, had continuously taken firm action to eliminate illegal gambling activities, including online gambling.
I was very impressed when state Deputy Police Commissioner Datuk Dr Chai Khin Chung declared before Christmas that the statewide blitz to close down illegal cyber gambling dens was “mission accomplished”.
He said the police had played their part positively, following the chief minister’s declaration of war against cyber gambling after years of proliferation of illegal outlets throughout the state.
“There is no more active cyber gambling dens throughout Sarawak now,” he told a press conference after the disposal of seized computers at police headquarters. He noted that dens operating illegal activities had closed for business following the large-scale crackdown mounted by police.
Closing them down is one thing, ensuring that they are not reopened is quite another.
Right on cue, just three weeks later Sibu police chief ACP Shafie Ismail admitted that illegal cyber gambling had returned, prompting the police to go all out again to curb the crime.
He said the police would keep to their promise made last year that if these criminals dared to return, they would go after each of them.
Meanwhile, another news report last week seemed to confirm that the police are serious in their crackdown. The Ampang Jaya police destroyed 2,057 computers used for illegal gambling that were confiscated.
This was as instructed by the court after the police charged the offenders in court and they had been duly sentenced.
The story was accompanied by a picture showing the Ampang Jaya police chief operating an excavator to dispose of the machines in front of the press.
However, I noticed the picture showed that almost all the computers were surprisingly the obsolete CRT monitors – remember those bulky ones that resembled your father’s television sets?
I would think that as the computers were seized just last year, they would be the flat-screen LCD types.
It reminded me of pictures that show pirated DVDs being destroyed by the authorities – somehow they are usually the older titles.
The Federal Police’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department (JIPS) had set up 24 special squads nationwide to monitor and inspect illegal gambling outlets that had been raided but resumed operations, said its director, Datuk Zubaidah Md Ismail.
She added that JIPS had also received complaints and information about a few of its officers and men abetting gambling syndicates but investigations needed to be conducted to verify the authenticity of the information.
However, police officers and personnel should not be worried about the move by JIPS as it was aimed at clearing the police from allegations of being linked to illegal gambling, said Zubaidah.
There is no smoke without fire.
The war against illegal activities can only be won if it is carried out on a sustained basis, in a transparent manner and through concerted efforts with all related authorities.
To quote our chief minister, officials must not do their job with eyes that are blind, ears that are deaf and mouths that are dumb.
Ahmad Zahid highlighted the need for cooperation between local government authorities and the police to combat such activities as the former have the discretion to approve and revoke licences issued to premises operating cybercafe businesses.
This brings me to the admission by Kuching South mayor Datuk James Chan that a whopping 70% of buildings in Kuching have illegal extensions.
Quite embarrassing, no?
I have complained in this column about the obvious boarding up of the five-foot way at a commercial centre by a supermarket, which has cordoned it off with permanent roller shutters. But nothing is done.
Last Tuesday, at another commercial centre in Fourth Mile, I was forced to walk in the rain to my car after visiting my doctor. As the whole five-foot way was hoarded with Chinese New Year stuff by a discount store, I had to skirt around parked cars in the rain and it certainly made my headache worse.