By P Ramasamy
Vigilantes and convicted robbers must be punished without fear or favour. It is unimaginable the kind of chaos the country will descend to if people form groups or vigilantes, who take it upon themselves to mete out punishment on those they suspect of breaking the law. Vigilantism is in itself in defiance of the law.
This is the reason why the police have to be tough not only against those who steal but also against those who take the law into their own hands to mete out punishment. If the acts of vigilantes are on the increase, then the police might find their role usurped.
Take the recent case as an example. An 18-year old teenager who allegedly stole two car rims from a workshop in Kampung Surau, Bukit Mertajam two days ago was cornered and beaten to death by a group including the proprietor. The scuffle took place around 5.30 in the morning and resulted in the death of the teenager. The police have detained the 42-year-old proprietor, and has learnt the man has previous convictions for drug-related offences. The others involved in the attack have yet to be arrested.
The motorcycle, according to the police, that was used in the robbery was apparently stolen on May 3 this year although police have yet to determine if others were involved in the robbery. Whether the teenager was involved in the robbery or not is something that the police have to determine on the basis of evidence. However, those who attacked the teenager and killed him overstepped their roles as concerned citizens.
Even if the teenager was caught red-handed, those who apprehended him should have instead only detained him before handing him over to the police. They had no right to take the law into their own hands why physically beating him up so badly that he died.
If people are going to mete out their own version of justice even for petty crimes, then there is no need for a police force in the country. Just imagine what the consequences would be if people grouped themselves as vigilantes and started to mete punishments completely going beyond the role of law?
It is sincerely hoped that the police will do a thorough investigation in not only arresting those involved in the robbery but also those involved in attacking the victim.
Unless and until stiff punishment is meted out to those who break the law, the country will never be safe from robbers and vigilantes.
P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.
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