Of sacrificial lambs and sex toy fiends

By Terence Fernandez, TheSun

IF I have not delivered, then I am prepared to face the consequences.” These are not words of a politician playing to the gallery, but those of a government servant. Immigration director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman has put his head on the chopping block over two break-outs at the Sepang Immigration Detention Centre.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had singled out Abdul Rahman and Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mahmood Adam for blame over the escapes. But instead of coming up with excuses, Abdul Rahman had done something alien in Malaysian public service: taking the rap.

“If the system fails, it means that the director-general has failed,” he said.

Civil servants like Abdul Rahman are few and far between, and one lauds his stepping up to the plate to be accountable for the shortcomings in his department.

But the issues affecting the Immigration Department are long-standing. Abdul Rahman may have inherited these problems from Mahmood who was the director-general earlier. And Mahmood in turn inherited these problems from a slew of predecessors.

It seems that escaped detainees are not the only problem they have had to deal with. Long queues, flip-flopping of policies on spousal visas, arbitrary decisions on work permits affecting foreign nationals, a multi-million ringgit system that keeps crashing (systems were down again at the Pusat Bandar Damansara Immigration office on Wednesday) and yes, the bitter truth of widespread corruption and abuse of power still dogs this department.

Ironically, it was the focus of the government’s reformation of the civil service seven years ago when then prime minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, made his first and last spot check at the Pusat Bandar Damansara office.

My dealings with the department either for personal matters or those involving complainants have been far from satisfactory, where every case needed the intervention of Abdul Rahman and Mahmood before him, for a swift and satisfactory solution.

Yes, as the heads, these two probably need to face the music, but if there is no concerted effort to wield the rotan and check the little Napoleons, then whoever replaces Abdul Rahman or Mahmood will continue to face similar problems. The problems in this agency are so entrenched that it needs political will to weed out the crooks. The fact that a former director-general is facing corruption charges, illustrates how low the agency has come and how much more work it needs to do to be credible and efficient again.

Perhaps Abdul Rahman and Mahmood are not the right people for the posts. But their replacements may be just as ineffective if the problems of the department are not stripped bare and dealt with head-on. There has been too much pussy-footing around the reform of this agency, where even until today it can only confidently boast of having passports issued within a day. Speaking of which, why do passport photos taken anywhere else other than the designated booth at the department keep getting rejected?


EVER chanced upon the illegal sex aid bunting decorating lamp-posts and road dividers? Some have a picture of a ferocious tiger to illustrate the power of “cream lelaki kuat”. Colleague Llew-Ann Phang and I came across one such bunting in Taman Tun Dr Ismail on Wednesday. This one had no tiger but an invitation to buy sex toys.

For giggles, I decided to give the phone number on the bunting a call. It was answered by a person who called himself “Zack”.

He told me that a packet of eight to 12 pills cost RM80-RM100.

“Tapi kalau lu takut makan, kita ada krim. You sapu saja!” (“But if you are afraid to ingest the pills we have creams that you can apply.”)

“Tapi Boss, I cakap sama lu terang-terang, ini bukan dadah. Kalau dadah kita sudah lama masuk penjara.” (“But I assure you that they are not drugs. If they were, we’d be in jail a long time ago.”)

I inquired about the sex toys and he rattled out: “Blue film, inflatable dolls …”

I was surprised at the daring of these guys who go about their trade like they were selling insurance. They even claim their sex-enhancement pills are a cure for high blood pressure and diabetes.

Aren’t you afraid of getting caught as you are openly advertising illegal products, I asked.

“Kalau kita takut tak boleh niaga lah.” (“If we are fearful, we’ll not be able to do business.”)

Of course. Silly me.

Apart from the obvious breach of advertising standards and municipal rules, there are serious violations to local health laws too as unapproved drugs are being openly sold.

The audacity of these guys to tell me that if they are afraid of the law, they can’t do business is an alarming reality of the state of enforcement in Malaysia.

All the local councils – which are supposed to bring down all illegal posters, bunting and billboards – need to do is call the number on the bunting and follow up with joint raids with the police, Health Ministry, Pharmaceutical Control Bureau and the Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Ministry.

All that is needed is the will. But while our enforcement officers are keen to clamp cars and issue parking summons (which are welcome), things like this seem to fall out of their focus. This is perhaps because the culture of illegal advertising is so entrenched that the officers are desensitised to it, allowing these illegal sex-drug pushers to hide in plain sight.