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Move to recruit more non-Malays into PDRM welcomed – but this must only be the beginning

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Much more needs to be done to create fair and equal opportunities and this move must extend to other government agencies as well, says Francis Loh.


Two days ago, on Police Day, Johor deputy police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Ismail Yatim urged Chinese Malaysians to come forward and join the police force. His invitation comes on the heels of an earlier announcement by Deputy Inspector General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin that the force aims to increase the number of Chinese Malaysian police personnel in the country to 5,000, especially for the position of constable.

Aliran welcomes these announcements as, at present, there are only 1,974 Chinese among the 111,395 personnel in nation’s police force – a mere 1.77 per cent of the total.

The Deputy IGP clarified that the PDRM had relaxed several requirements pertaining to recruitment – requiring a pass instead of a credit in SPM Bahasa Malaysia and accepting applicants wearing spectacles or contact lenses – and was looking at reducing the training period from nine to six months.

The campaign with road shows is being conducted in various states from now until April (Sunday Star, 2 March 2014).

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice-president Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has welcomed the announcement. He stated: “A lot of Chinese are part of the Police Volunteer Reserve (PVR). If they’re interested to be part of PVR,
I’m sure they would be interested to join the police force too.”

He revealed that many Chinese have had their applications to join the force rejected previously because of stringent entry requirements (The Star, 3 March 2014).

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Judging from the latest statistics provided by PDRM, it appears that Chinese involvement in the police force has dropped even more over the past decade. In the Report of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police, 2004 (Table 4.12 on page 135-36), it was revelaed that there were 90,256 personnel in the PDRM in 2004.

Malays accounted for 78.3 per cent of the total; Indians and Punjabis 4 per cent; and Chinese (2,277) only 2.5 per cent. Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh, Murut, Thai, Ceylonese, and Portuguese categorised as ‘Others’ made up the remaining 15.2 per cent.

The data which is presented in terms of the different ranks also showed that all the top positions were held by Malays. A single Chinese held the rank of Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police while the highest ranking Indian was a Senior Assistant Commissioner II.

Against such statistics for 2004, consider this perhaps surprising scenario: in 1968, it was estimated that Malays made up only 45.1 per cent of police officers and some 39 per cent of the entire police force. Malay participation increased sharply during the 1970s and 1980s so that in 1989 when the police force totalled some 76,000, non-Malays made up only 30-40 per cent of the officers while Chinese made up only 4.6 per cent of the entire force. (These estimates have been taken from the influential book Government and Politics in Malaysia (1996: page 137) authored by Dr Harold Crouch who used to be Professor of Politics in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

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In other words, prior to May 1969, non-Malays used to dominate the police force especially in the higher ranks. The pre-eminence of the Malays in the police force today is actually a reversal of the pre-1969 situation. And on this reversal, the 2004 Royal Commission Report (p. 135) has commented: “The present situation contrasts with the situation in the PDRM before. In May 1969 for instance, 68 percent of non-Malays are Division One officers, a situation that was equally unsatisfactory.”

How did such a reversal occur? The Royal Commission Report further states “according to the PDRM, a major reason for the poor representation of the Chinese [today] was because relatively few Chinese apply to become Constables, where the bulk of new recruitment takes place”.

Significantly, the Report (p.138) also notes that “the non-Malay community especially the Chinese and Indians are dissatisfied with the lack of explanation given for the rejection of applications in a number of cases. They harbour the feeling that they have been deliberately discriminated against”.

More than this, a popular view among non-Malays is not only that they are discriminated against in the recruitment process. They also harbour the view that they are further discriminated in their promotional prospects. Indeed, such views pertain not only to engagement with the PDRM but vis-a-vis the army, navy, air force, immigration, bomba, DCA, universities and the entire educational system, local government, state and federal bureaucracy, including the prestigious PTD; and not forgetting the GLCs.

It is clearly time to put an end to such discrimination on the basis of race and religion. Or, if it is deemed that there does not exist such discrimination, let us then go out of our way to recruit and promote the non-Malays who are qualified and capable so that the burden of fighting crime, delivering services, defending the nation, or in this time of the ill-fated MH370, sharing the SAR duties can be shared by all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.

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Then we would not need any Foundation or programme to pronounce ‘1Malaysia’. I dare say that it would emerge quite spontaneously as all Malaysians share common rights and responsibilities.

Hence, while we welcome this first step to recruit more non-Malay policemen, we need to stress that much more needs to be done, and not only with regard to the police force.

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