Wednesday, July 04, 2007

JOHOR BAHRU (J-enayah B-anyak) AND CRIME

In March 1997, the then Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew during a libel suit against Tang Liang Hong affirmed an affidavit where in he remarked that the Malaysian state of “Johor was notorious for shooting, mugging and car jacking”.

That was enough to make Malaysian politicians have hissy fits and demand that Lee Kuan Yew apologise. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, then the Foreign Affairs Minister described Lee Kuan Yew’s comment as callous and hostile. Najib Tun Razak, the then Education Minister said only an arrogant leader would come out with such an irresponsible statement. Johor UMNO members when welcoming the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed at Senai airport brandished placards calling Lee Kuan Yew among others of being senile. In the end Lee Kuan Yew apologized.

Ten years on after Lee Kuan Yew’s infamous remark, Johor Bahru has yet to lose its cowbow town reputation and now has become even worst, earning a grim reputation of being a crime infested city.

Crime in Johor Bahru has in recent years become more violent and vicious. A recent spate of vicious and violent crimes and which was widely reported, not only has caused much anxiety among the people but continues to reaffirms the perception of Johor being a lawless city and that the police seem incapable to combat the crime effectively.

Here are some of the vicious and violent crimes which occued in Johor Bahru in June 2007.


June 12, 2007
Three men raped a 19 year old girl and her 22 year old boyfriend could only watch helplessly because he had been slashed twice.

June 13, 2007
A group of armed men, took a couple on a one hour terror ride before raping the 35 year old woman in the presence of her friend who had been slashed.

June 20, 2007
A 16 year old girl was abducted by four men on motorcycles at a park and was taken to a secluded spot 20 kilometres away, where the men took turns to rape her.

June 20, 2007
A 15 year old girl and her 13 year old brother was waiting at a bus-stop when a man claiming to be a police officer stopped and asked for their identity cards. When the pair told him that their identity cards were at home, he told them to get in the car. When they arrived at their home, the man asked the brother to go and get the identity cards. He then sped off with the girl. The girl was taken to a sewerage treatment plant in Taman Teknologi Skudai and was brutally raped.

May, 2007
A pregnant woman who was waiting in the car while her husband went to toilet was held up at knife point and taken on a terror ride and was robbed and gang-rapped in front of her three year old son.


Thus it was no surprise that long suffering people of Johor Bahru decided to act. On June 17, 2007 about 200 people, gathered outside the residence of the Johor Menteri Besar in Johor Bahru to demonstrate against the high crime rate. Instead of being sympathetic, understanding and responsive to the civil act, two SUARAM activist were arrested. The gathering was instead turned into a racial agenda. Talk about shooting the messenger ! A week later Johor Bahru Tiong Hua Federation launched a 100,000 signature campaign to protest against rising crime rate in Johor Bahru. Such was the effect that in less than a week, the Johor Bahru Tiong Hua Federation collected 118,000 signatures.

One thing is clear, the aftermath of the civil protest and peoples initiative has resulted in response and success (even if the authorities do not admit it). The reactionary and knee–jerk response has finally awakened the authorities. The government has responded. The police has also responded.


Suddenly there is an admission by the police that they have identified seven gangs lording (bermaharaja –lela) in Johor Bahru and on June 30, 2007 the Inspector General of Police made a startling claim that apart from Singapore criminals, criminal elements from Taiwan and Indonesia has been identified to be involved in organized crime in Johor. In fact on June 26, 2007, the Inspector General of Police said that these criminals are being protected by “influential people”. (Minguan Malaysia June 30, 2007). All these revealation does not surprise the people of Johor Bahru .

In the aftermath of the violent crimes which made headlines, The STAR, July 2, 2007 reported that almost the entire D7 unit based at the Johor State Police headquarters were moved out. This included the unit’s commanding officer and five inspectors. It is not clear whether the officers were transferred out for not carrying out their duties or by powerful syndicates who felt hindered by these officers. (Read the STAR Monday 2, July 2007)

The crime statistic and police to people ratio for Johor makes miserable reading.

According to police statistics, in 2006, Johor recorded a total of 29,079 criminal cases and out of which 68% of these reports were lodged were of incidents which occured in the Johor Bahru district alone.

According to crime statistics from Ibu Pejabat Polis Kontingen Johor, for the period January to May, Johor Bahru Selatan recorded 6,467 cases while Johor Bahru Utara for the same period recorded 2,258.

So what is the problem ? New Straits Times Saturday June 23, 2007 reported that the 1.5 million people in Johor Bahru were being served by 1,700 policemen , that is one policeman to 15,000 people. On Monday 22 June 2007, the Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman in the State Assembly said that Johor requires 6,910 police personels or one policeman to every 250 people (1:250).

However presently in Johor Bahru Selatan the ratio is one policeman to 1,100 (Johor Bahru Selatan population 1,159079- policemen 1159 ) while for Johor Bahru Utara is one policeman to 776 people (Johor Bahru Utara population 530,990 - policemen 684). This miserable police to people ratio falls short of what is recommended by Interpol, which is one policeman for every 250 people


Now the main problem has become clear. Not enough police personnel and policemen on the street to fight crime. Unless and until there are sufficient policemen and they are visibly present on the street, crime will continue to strive and the people of Johore Bahru will continue to live in fear.

It must be remembered that unlike other states, Johor is located next to Singapore and Indonesia with 17 entry and exit points, especially at ferry terminals. This makes it easy for criminal elements from Indonesia to slip in and out undetected. In Johor Indonesians continue to commit crimes. Now the IGP says there are also underworld element from Taiwan and Singapore making their bases here. People of Johor Bahru fear that in future a turf war among these gangs may one day break out.

Thus fighting crime and keeping criminals out must be of utmost priority. That can only be done if there are sufficient policemen and resources.

The government must be mindful (even if they do not wish to admit it) that the Johor Bahru is not only the southern gateway into Malaysia but more importantly the economic lifeline of Johor Bahru is very much dependent on Singaporeans. But with all the crimes making headlines, there is an adverse effect on Johor Bahru. Singaporeans are now fearful of coming into Malaysia. With travel becoming cheaper, they may give Johor Bahru and Malaysia a miss. Soon they may even reconsider if they should invest in Malaysia.

A secure and safe city and state becomes all the more important after the launching of the Iskandar Development Region (IDR). Malaysia is trying to attract investors to IDR but investors will not come to a crime infested city/ region. Thus when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, visited Singapre to promote IDR the foremost question by potential Singapore investors was the issue of security. That should be a sobering reminder that the success of IDR will very much depend on how serious and proactive the government and the police is in fighting crime.

Police in helicopters keeping a watchful eye, pictures of police patrols and roadblocks in the newspapers, police cars making regular patrols, policemen and GOF personals more visible and patrolling the streets - all happening only after a spate of crimes will not allay the peoples fear or instill confidence in the people if at the end of the day there is no concerted and proactive efforts to fight crime.

Hopefully lessons have been learned. The public has had enough and now look to a safe Johor Bahru and that means effective policing and not suffering from not understaffed and overstretched policing.


June 17, 2007
About 200 people gathered in front of the Johor Menteri Besar’s residence in Johor Bahru to voice their anger at increasing crime rate.

June 21, 2007
Deputy Prime Minister said cabinet has decided that an additional 400 policemen would be deployed in Johor Bahru as soon as possible. Also an additional 200 police patrol cars would be deployed.

June 21, 2007
State police Chief announces that with effect of 23 June, more than 300 policemen will take over policing of crime prone areas in Johor Bahru.
160 General Operations Force personnel will join the 150 Federal Reserve unit to patrol the streets.
The number of patrol cars have been increased from 68 to 93.

June 22, 2007
Teh Kee Sin who is the Southern Johor Small and Medium Industries Association president was reported in the STAR (June 22, 2007) saying” potential investors were skeptical about venturing into Johor Bahru due to its reputation as a hotspot for crime. Businessmen especially those from Singapore and abroad tell me that unless we solve the crime issue they are not keen on investing here”.

June 22, 2007
Datuk Donald Lim Deputy Minister for Tourism was reported in the STAR (June 22, 2007) saying that “the recent spate of crime in Johor Bahru has adversely affected tourism”.

June 25, 2007
Tan Sri Musa announced that police will rent premises to be temporary police stations. 30 inspectors have been sent to Johor as investigating officers.