Poser on how to keep neighbourhoods safe

ON Nov 29, I lost a very kind and generous friend, Dr Wan Hassan Wan Embong. I had not known him for long but we engaged in common issues and I do not know a more sincere and generous person than him. I know his name means nothing to most readers, but I would not be writing this letter if his death had been an ordinary one.

At 73, Dr Wan Hassan was a retiree living modestly with his wife and a maid. I later discovered that he’d contributed to the agricultural research industry through the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi). After completing his PhD, he discovered that he’d learnt a lot yet did not know much about Islam and the Quran. He then learnt from various religious teachers and eventually taught Quran reading in the mosque in Bangsar (Masjid Saidina Abu Bakar As-Siddiq).

Being a researcher at Mardi, naturally his other passion was gardening. He had a makeshift hydroponic mini-farm in his compound where he grew vegetables, tomatoes and melons, and would distribute the fruits of his labour to his friends and mosque congregation. He was as generous with his agricultural produce and plants as he was with his knowledge.

Intruders broke into his house at 3.30am on Sunday and fatally slashed him before stealing whatever valuables they could get. His wife sustained light injuries. We will never know if the attack was provoked, but a man has a right to defend his property and loved ones.

The intruders had entered through a rear window and he was awoken by noise in the kitchen. What would anybody else do in this situation?

Many in the area have lost a dear friend who would smile and talk to anybody in the mosque. That was how we met.

He later invited me to his house to learn about hydroponic agriculture and gave me books on Malaysian plants and one titled Ulam, Salad Herbs of Malaysia, which he’d written “before this knowledge is gone with the next generation and Singapore claims the ulam (salad herbs) to be theirs” (quoting his words when he passed the books to me).

His passing will be missed only by his family and those friends whose lives he had touched. The lesson the rest will have to learn is how to protect their homes.

This is the second violent crime resulting in death in the area in a month, the first being a man found dead with slash wounds along Jalan Bangsar. Despite paid security services along the road to his house, a break-in and murder could still occur.

What else can we do to protect ourselves and our property? How fast can we activate and rely on the police to make timely arrivals to stop crimes? Should we reactivate the Rukun Tetangga patrols? Do we know our neighbours well enough to help in these kinds of emergencies or do we just “mind our own business” when their alarm is blaring?

We need leadership and political will to make our country and neighbourhoods safe again! Crime prevention is a community endeavour but there has to be proper and exemplary leadership.

We all hope and pray that the perpetrators will be given their due punishment, although it will not bring back a friend.

May the soul of my dear friend Wan Hassan be among the righteous and may he be rewarded handsomely in the hereafter.


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