©New Straits Times (Used by permission)
THIS is how defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory. What was hailed four months ago as a record-breaking success in the war on drugs -- a seizure of nearly RM50 million worth of assorted narcotics, resulting in the arrest of a dozen felons and the disruption of an international syndicate -- turns instead into another shameful embarrassment for the police. The apparent disappearance of RM1 million worth of syabu from a strongroom in the Johor state police headquarters, with evidence indicating an "inside job", sits discomfitingly among similar thefts in recent years. In each case, mid-level officers have been punished for dereliction of responsibility by being reassigned to other duties.
To an extent, the police force is granted the right to keep its own house in order -- an article of faith born on pragmatism, considering the difficulties inherent in the police being called on publicly to investigate themselves. The continuing impulse towards establishing a commission to oversee the police, however, is only accelerated by incidents such as these. This lends urgency not only to the need to solve this crime, but to ensuring there is no hint that the police would prefer to cover it up rather than get to the bottom of it.
One wonders, though, how much the general public loss of faith in the country's security forces has conduced to the sort of fatal cynicism that would have enforcers prefer to be hanged as sheep than lambs. With millions of ringgit in seized assets languishing in their strongrooms, what temptations must befall the guards? As we are at present witnessing with the Immigration Department, where the arrest of senior officers on suspicion of complicity in illegal activities seems hardly to have cowed junior ranks into sticking to the straight path, the rot may have so permeated such agencies that it hardly matters whether or not the fish rots from the head, once the entire entity is riddled with a loss of faith.
Hence, while the Anti-Corruption Agency pounds its beat with renewed resolve, picking up sundry civil servants and government contractors to examine their palms for grease, and while public opinion continues to demand that the guilty be ferreted out and punished to the fullest extent of the law, it is truly dispiriting when the enforcers themselves continue to betray what frail shreds are left of the public trust. Without that trust, it should go without saying, they do not serve the nation's security but undermine it.