KUALA LUMPUR — Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar’s Twitter policing has been criticised for his alleged selective actions.
He stands accused of targeting government critics such as activists and opposition lawmakers.
An anti-Sedition Act group has launched a campaign for Twitter to ban Khalid allegedly for online abuse.
Khalid is undeterred. He tells Malay Mail’s Thasha Jayamanogaran he will continue to act swiftly against those who use the social media to make remarks that could lead to disharmony and unrest.
The 58-year-old top cop also delves into hurdles in crime prevention and what he would have been if not a police officer.
MM: Your critics have labelled you a bully for acting against freedom of speech and for the swift arrests of activists and opposition lawmakers. While social media has helped police curb crime, how are you coping with the abuse?
IGP: I view the social media abuse seriously as it involves the well-being and peace of our country. I can’t afford to take this abuse lightly as there’s a limit to freedom of speech. We don’t want a repeat of racial tension and I believe in prevention rather than cure.
I’m monitoring sedition online because most of the irresponsible politicians and NGOs have a large following.
We need to curb this abuse over social media because seditious remarks, false and misleading statements lead to disharmony and unrest.
The police respect every individual’s freedom of speech, but there’s a limit. With all these seditious messages that are stirring hate, we cannot afford to take the safety of Malaysia for granted.
Has your morale and that of the force been affected by such criticism?
I only absorb criticism that helps me or the force to become better. The rest I ignore.
I will continue to do my job to maintain law and order. Critics can say what they want.
We have taken steps internally to boost morale from time to time.
What is the main challenge faced internally?
We need more manpower to keep up with the growing population of the country. The current ratio is one policeman to 250 citizens.
We have 126,800 police personnel of all ranks to deal with 30 million people.
Every year, we need at least 7,000 new intake to replace retirees. There are also 4,000 new positions every year at every level.
What are the obstacles in fighting crime?
Our major challenge is with border security followed by traditional crime and the rising phenomena of cyber attacks.
At the borders (Malaysia-Thailand and in Sabah and Sarawak) the rivers, sea, roads and hilly terrain make it difficult to monitor smugglers.
For example, the east coast of Sabah with its border to southern Philippines is about 1,700km of sea. We have a lot of resources there, but it’s not easy.
Then, we have our traditional crime involving human trafficking, organised crimes, illegal immigrants and social crime.
Cyber crime last year recorded 8,140 cases including hacking, online scams, identity theft, attacks on computer systems and illegal or prohibited online content.
It’s hard tracking down these cyber culprits as some of them operate from other countries.
A new threat involving extremism has also put us on our toes. The rise of seditious remarks, cult teachings, religious hate movements, anti-government groups and terrorism is worrying.
With the Islamic State issue haunting Malaysia, what steps are being taken to curb militants from influencing fellow Malaysians and to ensure the country’s safety?
It’s a daily chore to monitor suspected militants, including recruiters. We have been effective in arresting people who tried to leave the country to join IS.
We don’t just stop after making the arrest. We ensure they go through rehabilitation, so that when they are released they are not a threat.
So far, we have arrested over 70 people who have undergone our rehabilitation programme. The police have the expertise in helping them turn over a new leaf as the force has had the experience of dealing with communists. The handling then might have been different but the approach today is same.
Khalid also tells Malay Mail what he would have been if not a cop, whether he is for a woman IGP and time spent on keeping officers on his radar.
I’ve been a cop for 39 years. If not a cop, I had wanted to be a modern farmer. I love farming but the closest I am to it now is gardening.
A woman becoming the top cop, why not ?…I don’t dismiss the possibility. There is every chance for a woman to become IGP, but I can’t say when.
The highest ranking woman police officer now is Bukit Aman’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department director, Senior Deputy Commissioner Zubaidah Md Ismail. Women constitute 11 per cent of the force, and we are moving toward achieving 15 per cent in the near future and 30 per cent in the long run.
When I became IGP, I immediately created a WhatsApp group with all police district chiefs (OCPD). Later, the number of chat groups involving other levels in the force grew tremendously.
Sometimes, breaking news and information via the chat groups come through all night even when I’m asleep. With the large number of group chats, my phone has to be charged at least three times a day.
The interview was held in conjunction with the 208th Police Day celebrations yesterday. This year’s theme: Police and the nation are inseparable. – Malaymail