KUALA LUMPUR: The “shoot first” approach to law enforcement advocated by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will portray Malaysia as a lawless nation, said MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu. The head of MCA’s Crime Prevention Committee said that aside from sending the wrong message to the rest of the world, turning to guns as the choice strategy of policing also opened itself to exploitation and accidents.

“Further, a shoot to kill or shoot first policy is liable to make mistake and possible abuses.

“We will send a wrong signal to the world that this is a country of lawlessness and without rule of law. It tells a lot just what kind of country in the world adopt shoot first policy,” he wrote in a text message to The Malay Mail Online yesterday.

Gan also criticised Ahmad Zahid for purportedly justifying the use of deadly force based on ethnicity, after the minister was reported as saying that most of the country’s robbery and murder victims were Malay.

“The remark is wholly uncalled for. Zahid has earlier assured members of the public that ‘police are colour blind’. His latest remark, if not read out of context, is most unbecoming. Crime and law enforcement have nothing to do with colour.

“It is a fundamental duty of any government to provide a safe living environment. It is about law and order. Tough on crime is necessary. But no law enforcement can ever be justified on ethnic grounds,” Gan said.

On Saturday, Ahmad Zahid reportedly advocated a “shoot first” policy for the police in dealing with suspected gang members in the wake of a violent crime spree that has resulted in Malays making up the majority of the victims.

In his speech at a security briefing event with community leaders in Ayer Keroh, Malacca then, Ahmad Zahid said there was nothing wrong with arresting the over 40,000 known gangsters in the country, half of whom are Indians.

“What is the situation of robbery victims, murder victims during shootings? Most of them are our Malays. Most of them are our race,” he was quoted as saying by news portal Malaysiakini yesterday, based on a 20-minute audio recording of the speech.

“I think the best way is that we no longer compromise with them. There is no need to give them any more warning. If (we) get the evidence, (we) shoot first,” he added, referring to suspected criminals.

In a Parliamentary reply to Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng on September 24, Ahmad Zahid said that the police fatally shot 124 Malaysian criminals from 2009 to this August, of which 56 were Malays while 41 were Indians. Chinese fatalities stood at 23 while the remainder were non-Malay Bumiputeras.

In another Parliamentary reply on September 23 to Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him, Ahmad Zahid said that each case of police shooting is probed carefully and stern action would be taken on police officers that had opened fire negligently.

But the remarks attributed to Ahmad Zahid from the forum, which reportedly included him professing friendship with the outlawed “Tiga Line” gang, have now drawn a barrage of criticism from the opposition and human rights groups.

Yesterday, Padang Serai MP N. Surendran said the home minster’s statement has tainted all cases of fatal shootings by the police, and called for fresh investigations to be launched into every instance.

Co-founder of civil rights group Lawyers for Liberty Latheefa Koya noted that the “shoot first” remark confirmed existing suspicion that the police were operating on such an unwritten policy.

Police shootings have previously fuelled the public’s demand for the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) recommended by the 2005 Royal Commission of Inquiry on the police force, which has remained elusive so far.

By Ida Lim, the Malay Mail