THEIR audacity is outrageous and their act an open challenge to the authorities. What has become of Malaysian society when hired thugs are so fearless that they dare even to advertise their services openly with their contact phone numbers?
But this is the chilling reality. Business cards and leaflets are left in mailboxes, giving different fees for services ranging from just a bullying act to fixing ones enemy to maiming and killing. This, coming just after Canny Ongs brutal abduction, rape and murder, makes one ask the often repeated question: Is our society still safe? Where is law and order?
We Malaysians used to pride ourselves that we lived in a civilised society, and such heinous crimes as kidnappings, murders and rapes only happened in other countries where guns and goons ruled.
Not any more. According to CID director Datuk Seri Salleh Mat Som, an average of four women were raped daily and three murders took place every two days during the first five months this year.
While these numbers are scary, he noted, crimes are also becoming more violent. There have been 11 murder cases in which the victims were burned this year while cases of incest and gang rape are rising.
Ong, on holiday from the United States to visit her ailing father, was abducted at the basement car park of a plush shopping mall in upmarket Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur and subsequently raped, murdered and burned. Whoever committed such a heinous act must be a psychopath who deserves to be hanged or locked away from society.
However, if one remembers Noor Suzaily Mukhtar, a computer engineer who was raped and murdered in a bus on her way to work on the morning of Oct 7, 2000, and considers the many stories of youths who befriend naïve teens and later gang-rape them, one wonders how many of such sick people are on the prowl. Are we still safe on the road, at the bus stops, the car parks, in public areas, on jogging tracks or even at home?
The Government is recruiting 23,000 more personnel to beef up the police force to cope with increasing workloads. The law will be amended to compel building owners and car park operators to step up security measures. There is a call to the Public Services Department to review the salaries of policemen to attract more people to join the force, especially non-bumiputras.
Amendments to the Penal Code to raise the maximum sentence for rape and incest from 20 to 30 years and to impose whipping even for those above 50 years old have also been approved by the Cabinet to make them into law.
All these measures are laudable and should contribute towards a safer environment. However, it is not enough for the Government to just impose stiffer penalties, increase the number of police personnel, enhance their equipment and even raise their pay unless more emphasis is placed on strict enforcement, coupled with a radical change of attitude among some members of the police force.
While we recognise that there are manpower constraints, complaints against some police personnel of their lackadaisical attitude are not uncommon, such that the public find it futile to report minor crimes such as snatch thefts, burglaries and road rage. Efforts are needed to restore public confidence in this respect.
There is also a dearth of police presence in the streets and other open areas. The basic role of the police force is to protect lives and property, and to maintain law and order. More cops should be put on beat duty to make their presence felt.
On the other hand, members of the public also have a responsibility in protecting themselves. They need to learn to take precautions, whether for their own physical well-being or for their possessions.
The police and the public cannot afford to take each other for granted but must work ever closer together to strike fear in the hearts of potential criminals.
They must send a strong message that no criminal can escape the long arm of the law.
They will be caught no matter how long it takes.