Bukit Aman's top traffic cop Senior Assistant Commissioner Mohd Fuad Abdul Latiff talks to Sunday Star about cracking down on traffic offenders, tackling bribery and getting serious with Ops Selamat.
SENIOR Assistant Commissioner Mohd Fuad Abdul Latiff is a man on a mission. Promoted to the traffic police chief hotseat in February this year, the 57-year-old Malaccan is determined to keep the force “clean” and cites zero corruption as one of his main goals.
Talking about keeping the roads safe, especially with the upcoming Hari Raya balik kampung exodus, SAC Mohd Fuad says enough warnings have been given and that on-the-spot action will be taken against errant motorists.
On the light side, the father-of-four who enjoys watching Jackie Chan action-comedies, shares that he, too, is “scared” when he sees a roadblock and will always make sure his seatbelt is fastened when he gets into a car.
> What should a motorist do if he is asked for a bribe?
Get the officer’s name. If you can’t, then get his (staff) number or his vehicle number. Note the place and the time. When and where police personnel go on (patrol) duty, are recorded in a duty roster at the station so we can identify the individual.
Two months ago, a lady called me complaining that an investigating officer had issued her a summons for a traffic offence. Naively, she asked where she could make the payment and he said she could pay through him. She allegedly gave him the cash but later discovered that the fine was less than RM300. The officer denied receiving any money but when I called her, she was afraid to come forward so I had to close the case due to insufficient evidence.
I proceeded to do a thorough check of that particular station’s investigation procedure and how they accept money for accident cases. I was shocked to see similar cases and removed the bad hats involved. We are still investigating this and will take action very soon.
> Can you comment on public perception of the traffic police being corrupt? Do you think the public resort to bribery because of fear?
Social media memes (like the recent one where Thor and Loki ask a traffic policeman if the former wants “to settle”) were created because of how people perceive us. But if we are honest in carrying out our duties, we have nothing to be afraid of. I don’t think people fear us, they respect the law. Whenever I see a roadblock, I am scared too and I rush for the seatbelt (to check if I’m wearing it). Ha ha.
> Have you ever been offered a bribe?
I would be lying if I said no. I turned it down but I’ve never arrested anyone. I just tell them to keep the money and warn them that it is wrong. The public are naive. They want to escape by giving bribes. To some people, giving money is not an offence – it is a culture.
> How are you going make zero corruption a success?
The law prevents us from taking bribes because it is an offence. (But I am also focusing on) police discipline and spiritual values to fight corruption. An officer guilty of corruption can lose his job, face action by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and be jailed.
Corruption occurs because of officers living beyond their means, not because they are poorly paid. In the force, a constable earns almost RM1,800 per month which is enough for a bachelor.
> What is your biggest challenge heading the traffic branch?
Making the roads safer, reducing accidents and saving lives. Our commitment is to reduce road fatalities by two per cent this year. It may seem like a small percentage but the number is quite big. There were 6,900 fatalities last year.
> Ops Selamat, which will last 15 days beginning July 21, was launched by the Inspector-General of Police on Thursday. Are your men prepared for the Hari Raya exodus?
Those days it was Ops Sikap because it was only traffic-related. Now it’s Ops Selamat because the police also take care of your property when you are away. Ops Selamat is our commitment to the rakyat to ensure that they reach their destinations safely and their homes are safe as well. Thus, all my 5,693 traffic officers nationwide will be on duty. They will have to find time in between their work schedule to go for their prayers and family visits.
Ops Selamat is about total enforcement. Three years ago, we advised the public to drive slowly, don’t jump queue, be patient. It didn’t work. Accident cases and fatalities went up, so this year it’s going to be total enforcement. We have given ample warning: if you don’t adhere to the rules, we will take on-the-spot action.
> Where are the accident hotspots?
Based on statistics, the majority of accidents occur on federal roads where you find a lot of criss-crosses and junctions. Recently, however, highway accidents are on the rise – Gua Tempurung, Menora tunnel in Kuala Kangsar, the Sungai Petani Plus highway, along the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP), and the East Coast highway.
> What is your message to road users planning balik kampung trips?
Drive safe. Get enough rest especially if you are travelling during the fasting month. And don’t give bribes (if you are stopped by a policeman).
> The Kejara demerit points system (where a motorist could have his driving licence suspended) was introduced in 1983. What has happened to it?
The Transport Ministry must revise, build up and enforce this system again especially with the Automated Enforcement System (AES) coming up. As it is a demerit system, we will cooperate with the Road Transport Department and give them the particulars of those who have been issued summonses. As for the AES, we were supposed to take over the system on Jan 1 but because of some technicalities, we haven’t. The Government is still looking into it.
> How did you end up joining the police? Was it a childhood dream?
No. I wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t make the grade to join the science stream, so I ended up in the arts stream. My late father was a sergeant and he encouraged me to join the force.
> Are any of your children in the force?
I have two boys and two girls aged between 19 and 29. I did try to encourage them to join the force but they were not interested. They say: “Abah, you leave the house before the sun rises and only get home after it sets. We don’t want that.”
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