Are PCA amendments necessary?


Policemen manning a roadblock during Ops Cantas in Kuching.

We are willing to sacrifice some freedom for safer streets, but let’s not return to the dark ages of indefinite detentions.

WITH the success of Ops Cantas Khas, is there a real necessity to strengthen the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) 1959?

In the past month alone, I have been stopped four times at police roadblocks on my way home after work.

This could be because I am a young Indian man with a moustache and a beard – the stereotypical image that comes to the minds of some when they think “criminal”.

I am almost always stopped at roadblocks, but whenever my girlfriend is with me, I seem to get away with just a nod while she flashes a bright smile at the policemen.

Now, I do not blame the police for pulling me over so many times, because we all know that criminals have been on a rampage and the number of shootings in the country has drastically increased over the past two months.

It was due to this that the police launched a major crackdown on criminals on Aug 17 – the Ops Cantas Khas.

Since then, in less than two months, we have been told that there has evidently been a drop in crime across the board with the number of robberies with firearms dipping by more than 90%.

About a month into the operation, on Sept 25, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi tabled the Prevention of Crime (Amendment and Extension) Bill 2013 in the Dewan Rakyat.

If the amendments come into effect, a person may be detained without being charged or tried for up to two years – a striking resemblance to the repealed, infamous Internal Security Act (ISA).

Section 19A of the Bill will also allow the detention to be extended for another two years in the interest of public order, security or crime prevention.

As we all know by now, the Emergency Ordinance, which also allowed for detention without charge or trial, was revoked in 2011 and the ISA was repealed in 2012.

So, the real question is: Are such strong amendments to the PCA necessary?

If you ask me, continuing the Ops Cantas Khas would be more than enough to deter criminals from coming out of the woodwork.

Talking to my close friends and family, I found out that just the sight of so many police roadblocks was reassuring to them and gave them a sense of security. Unless one is a bearded Indian man of course!

The operations were first launched to capture gang members and thwart secret societies, but when the dragnets were set, armed robbers, car thieves and even errant motorists have been caught.

Amending the PCA to allow a person to be detained without trial for up to two years, in my opinion, is not just unnecessary but also very, very dangerous as innocent people could be victimised and we could return very quickly to the days of unethical, indefinite political detentions.

There is no justice in denying anyone a fair trial.

Although the police and Home Minister have constantly assured the public that the law will not be abused, does the crime investigation department really need two years to gather enough evidence to give a person a fair trial?

If the police are aiming to regain the confidence of the public and to strike fear in the hearts of criminals, it looks as though the Ops Cantas Khas could prove to be the best strategy yet.

Right now, gangsters are running scared, travelling up to Thailand to cover up their gang tattoos and symbols. This is a clear indication of the success of the operation.

With phase 1 and 2 of the operation under way, more than 16,000 arrests have been made and 33 guns have been taken off the streets.

The police should now go into overdrive and launch phase 3. This phase will see police going after the underworld kingpins and seizing their assets. That is what is really needed.

Meanwhile, ordinary people need to play our part too.

The “it’s not my problem, I don’t want to get involved” attitude has to go.

We cannot expect 112,000 policemen to be solely responsible for combating crime in a country with a population of over 28 million.

If you witness a crime or anything suspicious, help the victim if you can, or at least report it to the police. Indifference will leave us spiralling in the same circles for a long, long time.

> Austin admits that with all the additional roadblocks in place, maybe it’s time to opt for a clean shaven look. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.


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