Monday, January 17, 2005

PM: No plans to disarm enforcement officers

Excerpt from Star

SHAH ALAM: There are no plans by the Government to rethink the practice of arming enforcement personnel while they carry out operations, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.

Commenting on calls to disarm officers from government agencies following Thursday’s incident in Penang in which a VCD peddler and a bystander were shot during a raid by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry personnel, the Prime Minister said:

“We may not be able to do that (disarm the officers) just because of what one man has done. I am sure we cannot say that everybody else will commit the same action.

“I don’t want to give an opinion that may affect this case in court or even on-going investigations. What’s more important is that investigations have to be thoroughly conducted,” Abdullah said.

On Thursday, Yeoh Yew Jin, 19, was shot in the chest by a 48 year-old enforcement officer at Gottlieb Road after Yeoh and his friend allegedly used baseball bats to attack three colleagues from the ministry.

The close range shot went through Yeoh’s chest and the slug hit Chow Heng Khow, 52, who was having dinner at a nearby coffeeshop.

In Sepang, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Government’s initial decision to arm enforcement personnel had been made due to fears that they were being increasingly threatened by VCD peddlers and those engaged in other illegal activities.

“The idea then was that if these officers were frightened by these threats, they would not be able to carry out their work effectively,” he said.

However, Najib admitted that arming the officers meant that they had a heavy responsibility in ensuring that they did not abuse the weapons.

“And this is where the level of professionalism of every officer matters. I cannot give a spontaneous reaction to the calls by the NGOs (non-governmental organisations).

“We have to carry out a study, taking into account of the amount of danger faced by the personnel in their duties,” he said.

NGOs such as Fomca and Suara Rakyat Malaysia had asked the Government to disallow the use of firearms by enforcement officers following the Penang shooting.

On calls for the Government to place piracy enforcement under the police instead of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, Home Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid said the current problem was that there were not enough officers on the ground to ensure effective enforcement.

Azmi said crimes such as drug trafficking, snatch theft and the peddling of pirated VCDs were rampant and solutions must be found for the problem of shortage of officers.

He said volunteerism was one way to mobilise large groups of people to conduct patrols and checks on these illegal activities.

In Penang, parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang said the use of firearms by enforcement officers should be suspended with immediate effect.

“The whole issue of equipping government enforcement officers with firearms should be reviewed and debated in Parliament,” he said in a statement yesterday.


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