When the going gets tough


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 28 Dec 2014

The writer Dr Cheah (in baju kurung, middle row, centre) and her platoon mates posing with assistant trainers Sjn Md Radwan Shafie (back row, fifth from right) and Kpl Wan Mustafa Adnan (back row, fourth from right) on graduation day.

As the government embarks on a campaign to encourage more non-bumiputras to join the Royal Malaysian Police force, Asst Prof Dr Cheah Phaik Kin decided to sign up as a Police Volunteer Reserve. The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman survived the first session of her training to share her experience.

They reminded us from time to time, that if we had any regrets, we had better leave. They told us that by joining the Police Volunteer Reserve (PVR), we had just set one foot in jail and the door was open if we could not take the heat.

I could almost hear a pin drop as these warnings were given to us. The quietness, I sensed, reflected our fear, anxiety and nervousness as we sat in neat rows in the hall at the Pusat Latihan Pasukan Gerakan Am (PLPGA) Ulu Kinta, Perak listening to the trainers tell us what was in store for us in the police force.

Kampar District Police Chief Supt Ng Kong Soon was very encouraging when I expressed interest in joining the PVR but he never warned me that by doing so, I could have one foot behind bars. As far as I know, I volunteered so that I could serve my country and my community, so how could that become punishable, I wondered.

It wasn’t until much later that we learnt they had screened our backgrounds with a fine tooth comb to ensure that they were taking in the right people into the force. And any wrong move against the law would cost the policemen their jobs apart from whatever penalty punishable by law. Law enforcers should uphold the law and be a fine example to the community. The police should not be a case of harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi (trusting someone who ends up betraying us).

We were told that police volunteers were perceived to be regular full-time policemen by the public. Our appearance, attitude and behaviour must reflect those of the Polis Diraja Malaysia as we represented the police force.

Everyone sat and listened in silence, probably wondering if we were at the right place. My friend even gave me a farewell lunch before I left for training to wish me well and pray for my survival. Indeed, it was a survival of the fittest as this training was not for the faint-hearted. It was a mental test, I’d say.

Waking up for sentry duty at 2.30am was another hurdle. We had to fight our tired bodies and heavy eyes to make sure that we were wide awake to perform sentry duty. They told us that this was police work – being up at ungodly hours to respond to emergencies or to go on beats and patrols were the responsibilities of the police force.

Burglars work when the world was asleep, so we had to be in top form during those hours to protect people and prevent crime.

Regardless of whatever hour one had for the sentry duty, we all had to wake up by 5.30am every day. By 6.15am, in the still darkness of the early morning, we had to stand at attention in the padang kawad. Kawad practice started at 6.30am, but every good policeman had to be ready, at attention no less, 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

Lateness would only earn you shame and humiliation for undisciplined behavior, not to mention having to do 20 push-ups.So for one hour every morning and evening, we huffed and puffed all through the kawad routines, learnt about self-defence, tabik hormat, yelling orders, and most of all build our physical stamina to get us ready to fight crime. It was a norm to rush through breakfast, shower, and a change of clothes. And just like a good policeman, we must be seated in the lecture hall 15 minutes before the lecture started at 8.30am. Nevermind if the huffing and puffing had not ended.

We sat through hours of lectures every day, fighting the fatigue. My roommate Yogeswary, who came with her sister, suffered swollen feet on the second day from all the stomping and thumping in the padang kawad. Fellow flatmates offered minyak urut and whatever remedy they brought along in their luggage for the pain, but nothing seemed to help.

Both sisters still went on with the training for the remaining days as this was after all, more than just a physical test.

I agreed with my mates. This was really a test of the mind, not the body.

Another new friend, Wong Wai Loon who came from Kampar is a secondary school teacher. Wong had joined the PVR so that he could assist with cadet training in his school as he had about 150 students who joined the police cadet corps.

Whatever the motivation, this was what all volunteers needed to hold on to when the going got tough. And the going definitely got tougher.

Our trainer, Insp Mohd. Nor Azman b. Md Safar told us that most of the time, we could do anything as long as we set our minds to it. He said it was the mind that controlled the body. We were taught to be familiar with the law so that we were clear on our responsibilities. Section 3(3) of the Police Act 1967 listed five areas of responsibility - to maintain law and order, preserve peace and security in our country, prevent and detect crime, apprehend and prosecute offenders, and collect security intelligence.

After nine gruelling days of training, I could remember the phrases in Section 3(3) by heart in two languages.

A very charismatic ASP Samsul Musa motivated us with his inspiring lectures. His stories were action-packed with tales of how he outwitted the criminals and busted group crimes, earning repeated applause from the trainees.

I could not really understand the sacrifices of a policeman until I heard the experiences from this seasoned cop. It was only then that I understood that policing was a life-changing career.

But I am still not sure if I can survive in the coming months, having only completed my first training. We all need to go through more in the months to come when we go back to our district police headquarters to perform on-the-job training. Only the best will finally make it through. Wish me luck!

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