Muhyiddin’s target: a more humane, caring police force

As minister of home affairs, Muhyiddin Yassin has responsibility for internal security.

PUTRAJAYA: After a year in office as home minister, Muhyiddin Yassin has several objectives he wants met, apart from those promised by Pakatan Harapan in their election manifesto. Top of the list is changing public perception of the police force.

He wants the force to be respected and revered, and for police officers to be seen as more than figures who “arrest and punish people”.

“It’s not just about enforcement, where we may be perceived as being harsh,” he said in a media interview to commemorate the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition’s first anniversary in power.

“We want them to be more humane and caring in our approach. We want to address concerns faced by society and intervene before they become an issue,” he said.

Public perception of the police force has been less than positive. Malaysians perceive the police force to be among the most corrupt institutions in the country, according to a 2017 survey by Transparency International.

Last month, the force was badly affected by the findings of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) that Special Branch at federal police headquarters had been involved in the enforced disappearances of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist Amri Che Mat,

To address the negativity surrounding the force, Muhyiddin said he will do so “internally”.

“We will implement a standard operating procedure and we are looking at SOPs implemented in other countries,” he said, adding that it would take time to change the police’s image.

But it’s not just the force that Muhyiddin hopes to change, there are also laws. While the law is meant to ensure peace, it must not be “draconian, too cruel or punitive”.

“That’s why we are looking to making it more humane,” he said, adding that Putrajaya is in the midst of reviewing laws that are deemed to be cruel, including the Sedition Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959.

The illegal immigrant headache

Muhyiddin will also seek a holistic solution to the influx of illegal immigrants, which he said is among the ministry’s main challenges. Enforcement alone was insufficient, he said, as illegal immigrants continue to enter the country despite raids and deportations.

“There are syndicates who bring in foreign workers and supply them to irresponsible employers who want to save money.”

The race card and a multiracial country

Muhyiddin said another concern is that of dealing with those who play up racial and religious issues.

The Sedition Act could be used against those responsible, but would not overcome the problem. What is needed he said, was cooperation from all levels of society including associations that represent a particular community to overcome such problems.

“It’s not just about enforcement. It’s about education, creating awareness, about a sense of responsibility, that we are one. There is no reason why we should quarrel among ourselves just because you are Malay, Indian or Chinese.”

Pakatan’s performance

On the perception that the Pakatan Harapan administration has been ineffective in resolving problems, Muhyiddin, who is also the PPBM president, said he understood such sentiment.

He said Putrajaya had bigger issues to settle in getting the country back on track, which would require more time.

“And because of that the general public feels that we have not done enough, or we have not delivered what we have promised in our manifesto.

“But we are not resting on our laurels.”

Muhyiddin said the people could expect the changes to come to fruition in two to three years.