Malaysia not ready for curfew on youngsters, say Sabah activists

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KOTA KINABALU: Activists have urged the government to reconsider its plan to impose a curfew on those below 18, saying Malaysia is not ready for a policy meant for developed countries.

Human rights and consumer activist Patrick Sindu said the solution was not in banning young people from going out at night but in doing more to improve the flaws in the country’s systems, particularly enforcement.

He said instead of “punishing” youngsters, the authorities should look at enhancing awareness and implementing better enforcement against the use and sale of drugs.

“In Malaysia, the system is the problem. It is prone to corruption. The drugs can come anywhere through land, sea or air – why don’t we have better and more effective enforcement there?

Patrick Sindu.

“Enforcement has been carried out for so long but still you have rampant cases of drugs on the street. Even with the death penalty, we are not able to stop the drug menace,” he told FMT.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail recently said the government was looking at the possibility of imposing a curfew on those under 18, to keep them away from social ills, especially drugs.

She said they were thinking of limiting the time that young people could be out of the house without adult supervision, adding that Malaysia was interested in emulating Iceland which had established this policy.

Sindu said at home, the responsibility of educating children lay with the parents. He said weak parenting was one of the contributing factors to social ills.

“It is down to upbringing, it starts from the family. Curfews can spark rebellion among the teenagers as their brain is always working. The more you suppress them, the more they will fight back.

“I understand curfews are needed when there is a threat to national and personal safety like during wars, but our country is not at war.

“And Iceland is an advanced nation while our country is still developing. They have a system that is efficient, we don’t. We are not ready,” he said.

Civil society rights activist Beverly Joeman concurred that imposing curfews should be the responsibility of parents, saying the government should conduct a study before announcing such a plan.

Beverly Joeman.

“Not much in-depth study has been published to warrant the curfew. I also read that for the curfew to be effective in Iceland, there are after-school activities planned and incentives of €450 for parents or parental support groups who choose to support this.

“Are these in place for Malaysia already? Is the ministry prepared to give parents money equivalent to €450 to support the curfew?” Joeman said.

She said she’d rather Wan Azizah concentrated on other issues such as women’s empowerment, reducing domestic violence and banning underage marriages.

She added that the deputy prime minister could better spend her time addressing the atrocities listed in the Cedaw or Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

She said the Cedaw committee had recently criticised Malaysia’s human rights record and referred to issues such as judicial weaknesses, guardianship of children, sex education, inheritance and polygamy.

NGO Solidarity Rakyat Pro-Sabah chairman Jamain Sarudin was also against the proposed curfew, saying Wan Azizah was just seeking popularity in making the proposal.

Jamain Sarudin.

He said imposing such a prohibition might bring more harm than good. Adding a curfew could lead to other problems such as children sneaking out or running away from home, he added.

“The government needs to differentiate whether the problem is down to the decay in moral values, the fall of the family institution or a flawed law enforcement system.

“Don’t equate Malaysia with Iceland. Its education and economy are way ahead of Malaysia, let alone Sabah,” he said.

Jamain, who is the Sabah Progressive Party Youth chief, said in a developing Malaysia, many parents were still working two jobs to support the family and curfews could prove to be an unnecessary burden on them.

“Young people found outside during the curfew will be taken to a police station, which means the parents have to go and pick them up. This eats into their working time,” he said.

He urged the government to think of other alternatives, adding that raising awareness among the people or communities was still the best way to curb social ills.