In new Malaysia, developers cannot count on police muscle

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 – The clashes at a Hindu temple in Subang earlier this week is a reminder of how things have changed in Malaysia since the 14th general election (GE14).

Though to many it may seem like it was no different to how similar disputes over temple sites had turned out, there was an obvious difference with the way this developer had allegedly handled such matters now compared with those in the past.

When Barisan Nasional held Putrajaya, the Federal Territory and most of the states, the developers just needed to take such a dispute to the relevant authority or some politician to “negotiate” for some assistance.

Next thing you know, the police will make a strong presence, protecting the heavy machinery brought in by the developer and the people are quite easily held back by FRU personnel brought in to stop any untoward response from villagers and temple folk.

Past incidents saw villagers arrested by police

That is how things were handled last year over some land in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan. The police were roped in by the developer to help clear the entire village, and more than 20 villagers who resisted were arrested, including senior citizens.

The developers could always count on the BN to help them by providing the relevant support from the police who were seemingly at these politicians’ beck and call.

The alleged hiring of gangsters by the developer’s lawyers as announced by Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (pic) in this latest case, shows that developers cannot pull the strings like they used to when it comes to needing a show of force over such disputes.

The developer has since denied any involvement in the clashes that is linked to its claim to the land on which the temple is located and its intention to demolish the temple. The law firm of Skrine & Co, which represents the developer, have also denied hiring the thugs for RM150,000 as reported.

The fact that two of the men arrested over the attack were staff of the developer paints a different picture to that put forward by the developer. They are saying that these staff were there to oversee the take over of the temple land.

But in the wee hours of the morning?

What is obvious is that thugs were indeed hired but no one is going to come forward and admit to it.

No repeat of Kampung Medan race riot

The fact that this incident has not spilled out into the greater sphere of the racially-mixed Subang area is a good sign and indication that it was not a racial riot. This is a vast improvement from what happened in Kampung Medan in Petaling Jaya in 2001. Then, the trouble took a few days to be contained.

It would seem that most rational Malaysians are seeing this as a non-racial incident, despite some posts and comments on social media, and are following the official line that the developer had allegedly hired the gangsters.

The same type of muscle they could previously have gotten from the cops.

Developers cannot rely on police help anymore?

Hence, the pre-dawn attack and disruption to the temple devotees’ and priest’s activities by the group of men, mostly Malays and, compared with how developers had done things in broad daylight before because the police were on their side.

That does bode well for Malaysians overall, if it is obvious that the developers too fear being exposed of trying to curry favour with authorities and politicians, and are unable to get their way like they did before.

However, as far as the police are concerned, there is much to be improved in terms of complacency. There should be a concerted effort to react more quickly and with greater force, to any hint of trouble that could escalate instead of taking the blase attitude that some have accused the Subang Jaya cops of showing when first responding to the calls for help.

The dispute over the temple site still needs a resolution and let’s hope the rule of law is used correctly and firmly, where the matter is handled professionally by all concerned. Any show of emotions on the part of the people wanting to “save” the temple must not be tolerated.

– NMT

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