Who’s guarding the guards?

On Teacher’s Day, I was assigned to relieve a speech and drama class at a certain international school. I have encountered no problems when entering the school premises without a pass in the past, since relief teachers are not equipped with any.

On this day, however, I was stopped at the entrance and denied entry. Explaining my situation, the guard kept insisting I call the personnel in charge of Co-Curricular Activities to allow me in.

I told the guard that I came by instruction from my boss, and have had no dealings with the man in question. I asked for a visitor’s pass, or if he could escort me in to see the man.

He refused and repeatedly asked me to call this man who I had never even met. After a while, I forced my way in as my class was about to start.

I then looked for this man and upon meeting him, reported the earlier incident. He apologised and assured me that the guards would be informed accordingly.

Ten minutes before class ended, another admin as well as the chief guard came into my class and informed me I was trespassing. I explained that their colleague has already verified me and cleared matters up.

They told me I refused to sign the entry form to get the visitor’s pass. Confused, I told them I wasn’t given any, even after asking for one.

They insisted I exit the school and sign the forms to re-enter. Considering this was caused by the miscommunication of their staff, and with only 10 minutes left, I asked them to allow me to finish my class. They then rudely told me to “get out”.

I was angry and humiliated. I was treated like some criminal. The admin even refused me to return the attendance form to their office. The chief guard said I had broken “procedure”.

I understand rules, and wouldn’t refuse to follow any for no reason. But this was simply a case of poor communications that blew out of proportion.

Why? Perhaps it is because these rules are practiced without any understanding of the reasons behind them. If they were created to secure the premises, then these guards should understand that a 5 foot tall scrawny girl would not cause any harm to their institution. Particularly one who requests to be escorted to the person in charge!

If I were a parent who received an emergency call because my child is having an asthma attack, or a severe allergic reaction, and in my panic I forgot my entry pass, would these “procedures” take priority over my child’s life?

Will the security company hired by the school take responsibility should anything happen to that child?

Abusing authority

This is the norm for security guards everywhere. Guards who are the first people you encounter when entering any gated premises often treat visitors with hostility.

Last year during the first day of Aidilfitri, my 62-year-old father, my brother and his son, all dressed up to see my aunt was stopped at the entrance. The guards asked my father to exit the car to sign their entry form.

It was raining heavily, and so my brother asked for them to bring the book over. The guards rudely refused and this caused my brother to lose his cool.

What is the point of rules if you can’t use reason to judge when and how to impose them?

In housing areas such as mine, cars without stickers are stopped at the entrance, and have their particulars recorded. This is meant as a security measure, but how about the residents who do not subscribe to their security services?

It is not part of the lease contract for residents to pay upwards of RM600 annually for these guards.

Their services are merely a privilege, not a requirement. And although this is meant to ward the would-be criminals from our neighbourhood, break-ins still occur, and the security company holds no responsibility over these incidents. What are the residents paying for?

Nobody questions the qualification of these guards. Most of them do not even speak English or Malay well enough to deal with matters that I have discussed. For that matter, do we even know their legal status in this country?

Of course, there are plenty of guards who are hardworking and brave through the graveyard shift. They’re here to make an honest living. But the ones we should question are their superiors.

These guards need to be trained not only in guarding our security, but also to treat their residents and visitors with respect and warmth, and not abuse their authority.

After all, they’re the ones welcoming us in.

Elza Irdalynna writes about art, love, and other things she pretends to understand. She is also an FMT columnist