MALAYSIANS know that the Government is serious about eliminating a problem when the Special Branch is assigned to work with regular police divisions to tackle it.
That is now happening with the nationwide drive to root out pornographic and pirated VCDs within a fortnight.
These are not new targets for law enforcement. But what makes it different this time is the co-ordinated national action within the very tight deadline.
Cynics have long bemoaned the fact that these are eternal ills which, like proverbial weeds, defy any programme of elimination. So how might police action this time succeed when they had not done so before?
Most enforcement duties in the past have been limited and isolated, typically with local authorities like municipal councils pursuing unlicensed traders.
This time it is a federal police action, undertaken across the country, with intelligence inputs from the Special Branch.
The action is also being expanded to cover all parties involved, including the purchasers of these goods. The warning has already gone out to the Malaysian public as a whole: stay clear of all pirated and pornographic VCDs.
To ensure the success of this operation, however, other factors need to be incorporated into the police action. These include consistent enforcement, and long-term education of consumers about the pitfalls of indulging in these goods.
There is no argument about the problems posed by the sale and purchase of these items. The common argument has long been about whether effective enforcement is likely or feasible.
Porn is universally held to be morally corrosive and socially irresponsible, particularly when minors are exposed to them. Pirated VCDs are unlawful and unethical, depriving the entertainment industry of legitimate earnings and thus depresses the prospects for artistes.
To escape detection, unscrupulous manufacturers and traders of these illegal VCDs in the Klang Valley have even resorted to using children to market them.
This adds a further dimension to the problem: implicating minors in what is already a criminal activity.
It is useful to remember that, like all other marketed goods and services, the trade remains thriving even if illegal. The demand-supply nexus is a chicken-and-egg situation: so long as there is a willing buyer there is also a willing seller, and vice-versa.
In determinedly going after all concerned – manufacturer, vendor, purchaser, end-user – the authorities hope to stamp out the business once and for all.
If enforcement can ever have a chance to succeed, it must be now.
However, the campaign to rid the country of these products cannot only begin and end with official action. Concerned citizens must also act responsibly to help, if only in making sure the prohibition is properly observed.
Porn and pirated material are not essential goods to anyone. Their use indicates and encourages a malaise towards one’s social obligations, just as their rejection signals a maturity and probity in people as responsible members of society.
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