Addicts and Illegals

commentary posted 2016-05-23 - last updated 2016-06-02
Addicts and illegals

"Five addicts among 39 illegals nabbed"

The "Illegals"

"Five addicts among 39 illegals nabbed", the Borneo Post headline blares. Below the headline, a photo shows a stern-faced member of the Royal Malaysia Police - in helmet, battle fatigues, and bullet-proof vest - posing for the publicity shot, with assault rifle casually pointed towards the head of a toddler in the arms of a squatting young woman. Four of the ten under the heavily-armed policeman's watch are children.

The article goes on to clarify that the "illegals" are people identified as "illegal immigrants". That clarification was welcome. as one wondered which law had been violated that resulted in a complete loss of identity, where transgressors are stripped of age, gender, even humanity (not "39 people nabbed", not "39 men, women, and children nabbed"). Their identity has been replaced by their legal status (with respect to an undeclared crime) - a unique distinction, for we never see papers refer to "illegal inside traders", "illegal bribe-takers", or "illegal vote-buyers" when reporting on corruption cases (the standard phrase is "[person or identifier] accused of [crime]"). But theirs is indeed a crime of identity: on the island of Borneo, shared by three nations with ill-defined borders (and only 18 miles from a fourth nation - that formerly ruled northeast Borneo, and still maintains a territorial claim), they lack proper identity papers declaring their existence in the state to be legal - hence their existence is illegal, and that illegal existence becomes their sole identity. This is the price to pay for seeking a better life in the only way available - this, along with imprisonment, whipping, and deportation.

The "Addicts"

Still, we are left with another mystery: how does a police raid determine that someone is a "drug addict", i.e. a chronic and compulsive user of drugs. All we are told is:

“Police also arrested five men for drug offences after preliminary urine tests revealed positive results of drug abuse,”

Branding someone as a "drug addict" based only on results of a preliminary urine test is equivalent to claiming that anyone that fails a breath test is an alcoholic. Physical tests can only reveal recent usage, not case history.

The "Enemies"

“We have no more Communists at the moment, but we are now facing illegal immigrants,” he said. “As you know, in Malaysia illegal immigrants are enemy No. 2.” Enemy No. 1, he says, is drugs.

In 2007, when the director-general of Rela, Malaysia's notoriously brutal volunteer anti-immigrant force, stated this, he was stating the government's official policy of the day. Granted, that a terror group with roots in Malaysia, and links to al-Qaeda, was implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, and strongly suspected of carrying out:

  • 2003 Jakarta hotel bombings
  • 2004 Jakarta embassy bombing that killed 9 people
  • 2005 Bali bombing that killed 20 people
Nonetheless, in Malaysia's security policies and enforcement, terror attacks were surpassed by drugs and illegal immigrants as Malaysia's top enemies.

And while the police chief promised more such militant raids against impoverished workers and their children in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah, the Royal Malaysia Police and military seem powerless against a string of violent crimes against Sabah tourists/residents or in Sabah waters:

  • Apr 15, 2016: two locals killed in drive-by shooting in Sabah capital
  • Apr 1, 2016: four Malaysian sailors kidnapped
  • Mar 26, 2016: ten Indonesian crewmen kidnapped for ransom
  • Nov 17, 2015: Malaysian tourist, who was kidnapped from Sabah, beheaded
Apparently, assassins and kidnappers also do not rank as top enemies. Perhaps the secret to staying off the enemy list of Malaysia's security forces is to possess the firepower to shoot back.