Thursday, February 4, 2016



What however is most worrying is the high-handed manner which has become synonymous with Rela. From molestation to violence, Rela is guilty of it all.
Jeswan Kaur, Berita Daily
Rela, or the People’s Volunteer Corps, is deemed as the second line of the country’s defence and Putrajaya has decided that the entity can best serve as the “eyes and ears” of the country’s security forces in fighting the so-called Islamic State threats and crimes.
At least this is how Deputy Prime Minister-cum Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi puts it, his rationale being that Rela had members all over Malaysia, including rural villages and settlements located far away from urban areas.
It is not only the IS threat that Rela, created in 1972, has to watch out for. Ahmad Zahid also wants Rela to help Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem win the coming state election.
“In Sarawak alone, Rela has 332,818 members and this is a force to be reckoned with.
“They can certainly be of great help to the Police and the Armed forces in this modern problem (IS threat) facing the nation,” was how Ahmad Zahid waxed lyrical about the volunteer corps at the 44th National-level Rela Anniversary celebration in Sibu, Sarawak.
But then does Rela with its over three million members and which is essentially a paramilitary civil volunteer corps have what it takes to “protect” Malaysia from the IS threat or help reduce crime threats?
This is because there are neither educational or physical requirements nor background or criminal checks on those wanting to become Rela members.
What however is most worrying is the high-handed manner which has become synonymous with Rela. From molestation to violence, Rela is guilty of it all.
The fault somehow lies with the haphazard recruitment of its members. This being the case, on what grounds then should Malaysians place their trust in Rela?
Whilst Rela’s core duty is to check the travelling documents and immigration permits of foreigners including tourists and visitors in Malaysia to curb the rising rate of illegal immigrants in Malaysia, it has also been given the liberty to “act” like the police and even bear firearms and go about raiding places like hotels, restaurants and factories.
Abuse of power
To make matters worse, Rela is also fully authorised to interrogate and detain people who do not have their travelling documents on them and when need be are tasked with security work.
Over the years however, Rela has created controversies over its modus operandi, with abuse of power being the main concern.
In February, 2006, human rights group Suaram alleged that Rela members beat up migrant workers in a raid carried out at the Selayang market.
According to a BBC report, five workers died while trying to flee the raid, their bodies found in a small lake near the market.
In February too, Suaram reported that Rela personnel beat up 61 Indian nationals who had sought help from the Indian High Commission. According to the Malay Mail report, the victims claimed Rela members had kicked and punched them, with one man claiming that he suffered bone fractures in both arms.
Three months later, some 1,000 Rela members burst into the houses of migrant workers’, breaking their padlocks, wooden doors and ceilings to gain entry and arrested migrant workers with proper documents, asylum seekers with UNHCR-verified letters and heavily pregnant women.
In July 2006, it was reported that the Aceh Refugee village of Kampung Tengah, Sepang, was raided and torched by about 100 Rela personnel. The Rela members also carted away bags, TVs, DVD players, mobile phones, rice and two generators belonging to the villagers.
In October, 2006, China Press reported that a group of Rela personnel conducted raids at Taman Orkid in Cheras at 4am, breaking padlocks and kicking doors, leaving a resident to claim that “their attitude is worser than rogue.” One of the residents also lodged a police report after the RM3756.30 which was kept in bookshelf was missing post-raid.
In December 2006, it was reported that six foreign workers with valid documents were detained by Rela personnel who broke into their chalet and later taken to a police station.
In December too, five factories from Klang claimed that a team of 30 to 40 Rela members had detained 64 foreign workers, assaulted others and stole their cash and valuables during raids.
Rela and notoriety
There seemed to be no end to the abuse of power by Rela. In January 2007, police revealed that a Rela personnel involved in relief work in flood stricken Johor had allegedly molested a teenage girl while escorting her to a hospital.
In March, a mechanic from Penang lodged a police report claiming he was assaulted with a walkie-talkie by a Rela personnel.
The same year in April, 10 Rela personnel were alleged to have robbed 20 Indonesians of their cash and valuables in Ipoh. According to police, two of the 10 had previous convictions.
While in May 2007, seven plainclothes Rela personnel ‘kidnapped’ an Indian film producer attached to a German firm for not having valid documents. The Rela personnel apparently uttered derogatory remarks “Come, come Bangla”.
In August 2007, the Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia claimed that during the Ops Tegas in Selayang and Gombak, about 100 Myanmar refugees who were registered with the UNHCR were arrested by Immigration department and Rela.
Notoriety seems to have become second nature with Rela and either Putrajaya is only too happy to pretend otherwise or it has no qualms with how Rela goes about flexing its muscles.
To expect Rela to be vigilant against the IS threat is being overly ambitious while to credit it with being the second line of the nation’s defence is preposterous.
Yes preposterous is correct,

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