PUTRAJAYA, May 6 — As the new home minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin knew several key Pakatan Harapan (PH) reform pledges came under the responsibility of his ministry.
He immediately set his sights on solving long-standing issues and the three things he focused on was changing the image of the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), reviewing six draconian security laws and improving border security in the country.
Almost a year later, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president said progress in these three areas were simultaneously his ministry’s best achievements to date and largest remaining obstacles.
Muhyiddin said while some portions of the reforms were still work in progress, he is happy with the progress so far.
“Some of the things I consider as achievements are also still in the process of being implemented.
“But the progress we have made so far despite the challenges faced has been positive,” he said during a special interview ahead of PH’s first anniversary held at the ministry last week.
Changing the public’s perception of the police
Muhyiddin said among the promises the government made was to transform the PDRM into a respected force and to correct Malaysians’ views of the police.
“In relation to enforcement actions, people need to know that when police are arresting people, that it is their responsibility in protecting the people and maintaining security in the country.
“We need to change the public’s perception that is not positive against the police force.
“To improve this we have reviewed all standard operating procedures (SOP) used by police, even though these have been implemented for a long time, so that we can avoid any misunderstandings when it comes to enforcement actions,” he said.
He said the SOPs were being reviewed to ensure police enforcement is not seen as inhumane.
Muhyiddin added that efforts to lower the crime rate in the country have always been the priority of the police force.
“PDRM in the last one year has taken many initiatives among them is the ‘Bandar Selamat’ programme, which involves installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras equipped with high-resolution technology.
“We are working on improving the CCTV infrastructure with the help of local councils nationwide in order to make people feel safe,” he said.
Review of draconian laws
Muhyiddin said PH has not backtracked from its election pledges to address six controversial security laws.
He announced that the ministry has completed two Bills for the purpose of amending the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or Sosma and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA).
“The draft to amend the PAA has obtained the approval from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and will be brought to the Cabinet soon for a decision.
“I am confident that this Bill will be tabled in the coming Parliament session,” he said.
The other four laws related to national security that PH also pledged to address include the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).
Muhyiddin said in order to speed up the process, two committees were formed last year to review all six laws.
“This shows we are serious in making amendments to the law, we are focused and know that the bottom line is that we need to bring changes that are beneficial and will protect the people,” he said.
He added that the government will achieve its goal to formulate laws on security that can balance the need to protect the country against the preservation of fundamental rights as guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.
Improving border and national security
The third challenge-cum-achievement Muhyiddin touted was improving border security by ensuring the proper deployment of assets.
He said the ministry gave special focus to securing Sabah given its porous borders and to protect the state’s residents from another incident such as the Lahad Datu intrusion by gunmen from the Philippines in 2013.
He said the ministry first met with logistical problems but addressed this enhancing the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).
“The responsibility of guarding the country’s border has always been the priority of several agencies under the Home Ministry such as Border Security Agency (Aksem), Immigration Department, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and PDRM.
“Reinforcement in all these agencies has overall improved border security,” he said.
Muhyiddin said together with the Human Resource Ministry, a special task-force was formed to solve the issue of illegal immigrants.
“Studies are being conducted on the demand for foreign workers which will assist in creating a system to manage illegal immigrants in a more holistic way. From January to March this year, 11,234 illegal immigrants were arrested for various offences.
“But we know that the illegal immigrants will crop up again and that is why now the focus is also about going after the heads of syndicates involved in smuggling immigrants into the country,” he said.
Muhyiddin said one reason for the influx of illegal immigrants in the country was employers who engage syndicates to hire foreign workers in their bid to lower costs.
“This is why we need the help of everyone, including state governments, community leaders and even village heads to channel information to us so that we can take action,” he said.
Muhyiddin said the Home Ministry in the last one year under the PH administration has taken to heart the spirit of Malaysia Baru and committed to improving its integrity and transparency, protecting the people’s rights, and being tough on crime.