Why pick on Indians?


Why haven’t the names of gang leaders from other communities been made public? 

Frankie D’Cruz, MMO 

The naming of alleged Indian gang leaders publicly is one of those upsetting stories from which nobody emerges well.

Certainly not those named. Not those who came out with the list, which has proved embarrassingly naive. Not the Indian community that seems to be the only ethnic group in the country that commands the underbelly of society.

Why haven’t the names of gang leaders from other communities been made public?

How did law enforcement come out with a list with the “actual” number of gangsters from the various ethnic groups with Indians topping the roll of shame?

Oddly, Indians headline gangsterism in Malaysia despite the police saying such ruthlessness is ethnically spread. If the gang leaders are a serious threat to society, why are they still on the loose?

This column has always professed a steely resolve to act against the whole continuum of gangsterism.

That means no soft-pedalling or negotiation with those threatening violence against us.

But with the unwavering resolve by the authorities, shouldn’t we display moral clarity to ensure this menace is effectively defeated?

The issue of crime and ethnicity is often devoured by politicians and anti-crime activists who are inclined to stir sociological and political controversies.

In the face of public fears over security, I can’t fathom why Indians are in the spotlight. Why do Indians get more attention from the police at roadblocks these days?

Over the weekend, a friend and his pals in Alor Star — all Indians, all professionals in their 50s and 60s — despite identifying themselves to police officers had their personal details noted at a checkpoint enroute across the border to Danok.

They were told by the cops that they were acting on instructions to note the details of all Indians going into Thailand. 

Criminal profiling?

Associate professor P. Sundramoorthy of Universiti Sains Malaysia holds that if Indians appear to represent 71 per cent of gangsters in Malaysia, that does not necessarily mean that other ethnic groups are not dominant in gangland activities.

Sundramoorthy, who is with the research team on crime and policing, School of Social Sciences says: “The probability is that the type of gangland activities involving Indians might be more visible and violent, thereby drawing tremendous public attention.

“By the same reasoning, selective types of gangland criminal activities classified as low visibility and less violent may be committed disproportionately by other ethnic groups but they go undetected or are difficult to investigate.

“Obviously, they receive less media and public attention, leading many to believe that Indians are the dominant characters involved in gangland activities in this country.”

In the United States, he says, the same scenario applies to African-Americans and Hispanics as the type of gangland criminal activities these two ethnic groups are involved in are extremely visible from a criminological perspective.

“Unfortunately, this has led to unwarranted negative labelling, stigmatisation, feelings of prejudice and acts of discrimination.”

He shared a personal experience to illustrate the point he was making.

“Recently, I was driving my Nissan Frontier truck with Kedah registered plates towards the Botanical Gardens in Penang when I got stuck at an intersection due to heavy traffic.

“On the other side of the road, parallel to my car, was an old Kembara with a male in my age group but from a different ethnic group.

“I was smoking, with my windows open, and about to shake my head as a gesture of frustration about the traffic flow when he started to wind up his windows and pressed the locking mechanism in his car. He appeared to have a sense of either fear or uncertainty about me.

“It was obvious from his facial and body expression that he was profiling me. I had this urge of wanting to point my index finger at him but decided otherwise to avoid any conflict.

“At the same time, I may have also been over-reacting based on the current publicity of Indians and gangs.”

He says criminal profiling based on ethnicity can be abused and misused although profiling as a law enforcement intelligence gathering tool is extremely useful if used prudently and responsibly.

“Irrespective of the various factors that are associated with crime, the association of ethnicity with crime is both weak and strong,” says the disciple of criminology of more than 30 years.

Sundramoorthy says some crimes appear to be ethnically defined “but in reality there is no single type of crime in this nation that is committed by one single ethnic group”.

He adds: “Our personalities and behaviour are nurtured by various socialisation agents in our day-to-day environment.

“The choice of crime committed, even by a specific ethnic group, may be related more to lifestyles rather than biological or genetical composition.

“Thus, it is crucial that in a multiracial society, we do not demonstrate our feelings and acts of discrimination by blaming ethnicity as the cause of crime. There are many socio-economic factors that contribute to criminality.”

Clearly, the law of unintended consequences haunts our deeds.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.