THE police’s confirmation that the fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz early Thursday morning was a revenge arson attack was indeed shocking.
Questions were also raised when Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Amar Singh Ishar Singh on Saturday revealed that the suspects who were arrested are youths aged from 11 to 18.
The fact that the suspects allegedly planned the crime, including bringing two cooking gas cylinders from the ground floor to the third floor of the school, was also unbelievable.
I urge all parties to take this case seriously as it shows there is a serious defect in our society. We need to get out of our comfort zone and discard the denial syndrome as violence among teenagers is actually very alarming.
The police statement that all the suspects are school dropouts while some of them were also involved in drug use and crime shows how serious social problems involving youths are.
Teenagers such as the suspects should be in the school dormitory or at home in the early hours rather than loitering outside and engaging in negative activities. Where are their parents? Do they know where their children are all the time, and especially at night?
I hope that action can be taken against parents who let their children get involved in crime, as provided for under the Child Act (Amendment) 2016 or Penal Code.
Violent acts such as bullying among youths and students are increasingly widespread and should be taken seriously by the authorities, schools, parents and other stakeholders.
Most underage offenders commit crimes due to negative peer influence, lack of parental guidance, bad influence on the Internet and the influence of gangsterism.
More frighteningly, violent acts are now being committed by teens whereas in the past, much older people were involved.
In general, almost every day there are violent cases committed at home, school or elsewhere.
The Government, along with other stakeholders, must find the reasons why juveniles are keen to resort to violence as a means to address their grievances.
The Government must help overcome this problem with the support of all stakeholders, including parents, psychologists and NGOs.
Among others, they should focus on the mental health aspect as it may also be one of the major causes of the violence.
The National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2015 showed that about 4.2 million Malaysians aged 16 and above, or 29.2% of the population, suffer from various mental problems.
More alarming, mental health problems also affect students because the ratio has risen from one in every 10 in 2011 to one in five in 2016. Experts point out that excessive anxiety and depression are the major cause of mental health problems among students.
Other contributing factors include family problems, physical and cyber bullying as well as pressure from parents and teachers.
In this regard, parents and teachers should encourage their children and their students to obtain proper medical check-ups to detect mental health problems, which are expected to be the second largest health problem in Malaysia after heart disease in 2020.
Non-conducive surroundings such as small flats and cramped housing areas can also be a contributing factor as they encourage young people to engage in negative activities such as loitering, drug abuse and violence.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation