Rangkaian Khidmat Awam Negeri Sarawak

(People, events, activities and programmes which make for a total quality-managed Sarawak Civil Service)

ISSN 1394-5726

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Ensuring Public Peace, Safety, Security And A Crime-Free Society: Relooking At Public Service Delivery Of Public Goods

The Editorial this month focuses on the subject of public peace, safety, security and a crime-free society which is actually a very broad and wide-ranging subject for anyone to write on. However, our intention here is to take the cue from two related events during the months of April and May 2002 which addressed these subjects statewide. Firstly, there was the jointly-organized seminar, exhibition and campaign on “Say No To Crime” in Miri by AZAM and the Police (PDRM Sarawak Branch) on 17-22 April 2002 which involved the local NGOs, members of the public sector and the Police being the leading law enforcers, the politicians and locals from Miri Division. The event is expected to be organized in the other major towns of Sarawak in the coming months. Secondly, it is equally significant that the subject was again brought up at the legislative level when a motion was passed at the State Dewan Undangan Negeri Session held on 6-10 May 2002, namely “A Motion to Preserve and Strengthen the Prevailing Peace and Security in Sarawak”.

Follow-Ups and Follow Throughs
Executing and enforcing measures as well as taking initiatives to ensure that beyond the talks and rhetoric are the follow-up measures and follow-through actions that need to be undertaken, would mean revisiting the subject matter on hand. Moreover, as members of the public sector, we need to be mindful of our unwritten role, albeit our beholden duty to ensure that peace, safety, security and a crime-free society is always in our radar screen. In essence, we need to relook at the public sector delivery of this public good. To start with, it is most reassuring to hear Police reports that on record, the Sarawak statistic on crime rate is amongst the lowest in the country. This has enabled citizens to live a relatively undisturbed life unlike the other places which have to grapple with a “war against crime”. Yet despite this statistical calm, we will notice and read that the subject has somehow crept into our radar screens in recent times. Small and petty crimes to armed robberies have been committed and reported and some still left unsolved. The challenge to us all now is how we can all play our individual and composite parts in addressing and dealing with these occurences and recurrences of criminal activities in the state.

The stakes are getting high. At the individual household level, citizens want to live in a peaceful, safe and secure surrounding so that their homes and properties are not disturbed and damaged. For the business community, they would hope that their business premises are not burglarized and ransacked by thieves and burglars. For individuals who use the ATMs it means being free from roving eyes and purse snatchers. And as we are calling for investors to invest in our State, we want to ensure that investors, particularly expatriates, will find our towns and cities of Sarawak are safe and sound. For the growing tourism industry, it means safe streets free from pickpockets and touts, so that tourists can enjoy peace and tranquility as they appreciate the pristine, traditional, cultural but safe surroundings of our towns and cities. Yet all these do not necessarily come easy if we become lackadaisical, complacent, rest on our laurels, and think that there are always others who can take care of the safety and security aspects of our society like the police, the army, the security guards or the government through its administrative machinery. Some may think that the customs and immigration officials at our checkpoints are already there, and thus we do not have to act any further. This is a wrong perception for it is the concern of all of us - the rakyat included in supporting and complementing the efforts of the various government apparatus. The JKKKs, Neighbourhood Watch and Rukun Tetangga committees, the vigilantes or the conscientious, law-abiding and peace-loving citizens would also need to relook at their roles. For if we do, society’s total effort will act as a deterrent to would-be criminals; enforcement costs will be minimized, and society will not have to incur unnecessary opportunity costs.

The principle here is based on the maxim that “Prevention is Better than Cure”. Prevention will call for all members of society to play a role. It often requires a softer touch and approach in dealing with the public. It involves education, public relations, communication and dialogues by the relevant agencies with the public if need be on a regular basis. Cure, on the other hand, will involve resources for management in terms of funds and manpower. For when crimes are committed, it will involve costs of arrests, trials, maintenance and rehabilitation. Mindful of these matters, it thus becomes imperative that we have to look at ways and means, or to have new approaches and strategies to prevent and alleviate crimes in our society.

While we can continue to discuss, deliberate, and resolve on ways and means to address the problems, it remains patently clear that we will continue to operate within the ambit of fear and concern as criminal acts continue to take place and perpetrated by lawbreakers. And when it happens, we have to rush to the Police as the immediate authority. While it is acknowledged that the Police are our law enforcers, we should also ask ourselves what is our role as an individual or community in crime prevention? Can we not form our own Neigbourhood Watch Committee within our housing estates? How can we work together with the Police?. Thus, if we are to accept the fact that crime prevention is the responsibility of all citizens, then it is only apt and appropriate that local leaders or groups take the requisite actions to look from within their neighbourhood to form their own sentinel teams. Such teams can act as a deterrent force and thereby ensure the safety and security of the vicinity.

Value of Peace, Safety and Security
Why is the subject of ensuring peace, safety, security and a crime-free society so important and critical? There are obviously many reasons ranging from a personal/individual perspective to the larger public interest perspective which involves the whole state and country. From a private person perspective, everybody would want to live in a peaceful, safe, secure and crime-free environment, free from thefts, burglary, crimes and so on. For if an area is infested with these acts, a rational and concerned individual will either want to leave the area or will call for the authorities to address the problem. A peaceful, safe, secure and crime-free town or city would mean that its citizens can interact socially, and without fear, conduct and undertake their businesses without being perturbed, disturbed and placed under unnecessary duress. Visitors and tourists to the state can also be rest assured that they can visit our towns and cities or touristic sites with the full comfort that they will not be mugged nor harassed. Such visitors and tourists can freely undertake their leisurely jaunt, walk and stroll, and shopping while touring. For the investors, including foreigners and expatriates, they can always feel comfortable to know that their investments will be safe and secure, and be assured of reaping their profits and dividends. In fact, it would be safe to argue that investors would rather come and flock to any investment centre or haven which they know is safe, secure and crime-free than coming to a place which thrives with a crime-infested environment. Of course, we are further mindful that in the latter case, we would also need to have other conditions like industrial estates, utility supplies, incentives and so on if we are to attract investors. Nonetheless, a peaceful, safe, secure and crime-free society would be a sine qua non for the thriving business, commercial and investment centre.

The concern for now and the future is not without reason. With growing urbanization, rising population made up of both locals and non-locals ( the latter being associated with expatriates and foreign labour), as well as increasing exposure to happenings around the world through the influence of television and Internet, one of the unwanted by-products of modernization - crimes - have surfaced in our society. The hopes, expectations and wishes of the people could be to have a peaceful, safe, secure and crime-free society although it may sound utopian. The opposite scene of course is a violent, unsafe, insecure and crime-ridden society. So what exactly is this product or public good and what are its characteristics?

Product Characteristics
Let us look first at the product - a peaceful, safe, secure and crime-free society. It is intangible, invisible, non-quantifiable ( though it can still be imputed in terms of opportunity costs foregone or the cost of enforcement), insatiable and indivisible. The product is characterized such that when you are in trouble, you feel you need it; when something happen, we are usually helpless; and conversely when nothing happen, we are usually mindless. In the latter case, we tend to be complacent and rest on our laurels, or think that there are others who have been tasked to take care of the security and safety of our society. Clearly, we need to look beyond the present and beyond leaving enforcement to the law enforcers alone. We need to look at all members of our society to work and cooperate together to address crimes. But for the product to be continually and continuously sustained, we need to search for answers to these questions. Whose duty is it to achieve such a society? Do we just leave the job of enforcement entirely to the Police? Do we expect the Police to man all our towns and streets while the other members of our society take an oblivious or lackadaisical attitude? What is the public or citizen’s role? What of the private sector? Do we just let the perpetrators of criminal acts to roam about freely like the other peace-loving citizens? Realistically, the answers to all these valid questions rest with all of us.

Societal and Public Sector Role
Secondly, let us ponder on the role of members of our society and in particular, that of the public sector and more so of the civil service. To start with, we are mindful and need to recognize that security issues will no doubt feature prominently in the administrative set-up of our country. At the national and state level, we will no doubt have the relevant apparatus in the form of committees or task forces to deal with the issue. If in the past, security matters would be clearly linked with dealing with communist insurgencies, today the security issues are closely linked with its effect and impact of citizen acts through blockades resulting in delaying or slowing down development. In recent times, security issues have to contend with illegal immigrants and localized crimes involving burglaries, thefts, pickpockets, snatchers and so on. It is the latter types of crimes that we need to be mindful and mindfully alert in containing if we now want to have a peaceful, safe, secure and a crime-free society. The concern and challenge is because while society’s level of mindfulness tends to be high during times of insurgencies or crisis situations compared to times of relative peace and calm, our new and pressing concern clearly is on society’s level of mindlessness during non-crisis times.

In a similar vein, let us next look at the other roles of the public sector via the various government ministries, departments and agencies in ensuring peace, safety, security and a crime-free society. There are many institutions involved although the more prominent and dominant are the Police. To date, the fact that we are able to live in a relatively conducive environment with a low incidence of crime compared to the other places, speaks volumes of the efforts put up by the Police over the years. Then there are those who play the roles of auxiliary police, security guards, who have also, in one way or another made important contributions. In housing estates and suburbs, the Neighbourhood Watch and Rukun Tetangga teams and other vigilante groups would also need some mention. In the latter case, we need to be mindful too that there are volunteers and thus do not incur costs in the course of their work. There is also the existing Jawatankuasa Kerja Kemajuan dan Keselamatan Kampung (JKKK) at the village level, especially those in the rural areas, whose tasks involve work and actions relating to development and security. The latter function would call for community and village leaders to be knowledgeable and conversant with the subject of security. For example, they can play their roles in monitoring and reporting problems and criminal acts perpetrated in their area. In particular, they can report cases where and when illegal workers are spotted in their vicinity.

Public Participation
Thirdly, let us reflect at the role of public participation. Indeed, dealing with and solving crimes would involve all members of society, which almost always effectively means public participation. Thus, it not only makes a lot of sense but also it is imperative that campaigns such as “Say No To Crime”, holding exhibitions and seminars are organized regularly as these are activities garnered to bring about public participation. To the organizers who are largely members of the public service, we can consider that this is part of social marketing by them. Yet, while attendance and participation is a necessary condition, it is not sufficient. For we need follow-up and follow through actions to come full circle. The challenge then is how can we generate greater level of commitment among the public servants and members of the public? The DUN Motion can be considered as a carte blanche to empower public servants to put serious efforts to initiate relevant programmes and activities. Perhaps we may even need a crime prevention policy.

In conclusion, let us reiterate that our concern here is to continually remind ourselves of the importance of peace, safety, security in our society - indeed, ensuring a crime-free society. Let us ensure that our development programmes and projects like land development are not seriously affected; let us ensure that blockades in logging areas are not emotionally orchestrated by one-lime crusaders; let us ensure that our borders are guarded and not porous so that illegal migrants do not break our laws and regulations; let us ensure that our neighbourhoods and our homes are safe and free from burglaries, thefts and bag snatchers. Let nothing along the way by way of crime can erode and affect public and business confidence. Let it be portrayed that the government and the public must be seen to work hand in hand to ensure and sustain a quality of life second to none for all and sundry. At the end of the day, let it be known that our towns and cities are safe, secure and crime-free.


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