Many Malaysians will be aware of the sickening feeling when the policeman waves at them to stop their car by the roadside. Their mouth goes dry, their pulse increases and their palms go clammy.
They pretend to be calm as they wind down the window, only to be told they have just broken the law. The policeman says they were speeding even though they could have sworn they were driving well within the speed limit.
Their minds go into overdrive and they start to panic, because they know they will be late for their appointment and they cannot think how they are going to get out of this predicament. They cannot decide which is worse; the summons or being hauled to the police station, where they will waste a few hours explaining that they had not broken the law.
Whilst they try to juggle what next to say, they might have possibly noticed that the policeman is looking around, as if to see if the coast is clear. An observant person may notice that the policeman is behaving in a shifty manner.
The policeman avoids all eye contact as he removes the little notebook from his breast pocket and flips it open.
This is the moment we all dread, and we try to explain that we could not possibly have been speeding.
Sometimes, the policeman would have a laser gun in his possession, which he would claim has recorded that we were driving well above the speed limit. However, in our confused state of mind, we’d forget to ask him at what speed we were driving.
The policeman will be adamant that we were speeding, and although some of us may deny it, the majority will not dare confront him.
This parry and thrust will continue until we are at our wit’s end and we are resigned to receiving a summons. Nothing we said had made any difference to the policeman.
He then reaches for his pen and it hovers on top of his notebook. He fixes his gaze and we feel defeated. He pretends to scribble into his notebook but writes nothing down. Then he utters the magic words: “Macam mana mahu settle?” This is his opening gambit to a quick resolution.
The whole exchange may have only taken a few minutes, but would have seemed like an eternity.
The question, “Macam mana mahu settle?” has broken the ice. A whole new set of possibilities open and the future is not as bleak as before. Most of us will breathe a sigh of relief.
This is presumably what happened to the British couple on a world tour driving their campervan.
On Jan 28, the couple posted a 51-second video clip on X, about a policeman allegedly suggesting an alternative method to quickly settle their purported speeding fine.
They could pay an on-the-spot charge of RM100 instead of receiving a summons for RM300 for speeding, with a trip to the police station to settle the fine.
Who would not be pleased at settling the fine at a third of the cost of the original RM300 summons? The couple agreed and paid the policeman RM100.
Most Malaysians are familiar with this tactic.
“Time is money” and most of us know that a visit to the police station is a time consuming exercise. The report is written up, checked, verified, and then we are obliged to answer the many never ending questions posed.
In a few cases we are told off for breaking the law in a lengthy lecture, possibly by a few policemen. If we are lucky, our ordeal will be over in three hours, having paid the fine.
Many Malaysians also claim that when stopped, they know that they have not broken the law. However, the policeman who stops them will have accused them of a traffic violation, like speeding, or overtaking on double white lines, or running a red light.
Most of us do not know how the policeman will react when challenged. A few policemen, when confronted, may back off, but there are some who see this as a dare or a challenge to their authority/power, and might threaten to increase the summons or claim that they were obstructed from doing their duty.
As the British tourists attracted a lot of negative publicity, Bukit Aman was prompted to warn the Malaysian public against speculating about the incident. They asked anyone with information about the incident to contact them.
The “macam mana mau settle?” syndrome has been around for decades. When will Bukit Aman take the Malaysian rakyat seriously? Will they appreciate that few, if anyone, will come forward, because they fear repercussions from rogue policemen?
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.