Fresh fears over Malaysian gun crime

Drive-by shooting of businessman is the latest incident in level of violence not seen for decades

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 2:41am

A 44-year-old businessman was shot dead over the weekend in Malaysia's eastern Sabah state, raising concern over a surge in gun violence after Prime Minister Najib Razak scrapped a law used to tackle hard-core criminals.

Since July 26, there have been 10 public shooting incidents around the Southeast Asian nation, leaving five people dead including Hussain Ahmad Najadi, the 75-year-old founder of AMMB Holdings, Malaysia's fifth-biggest bank, according to data compiled by police and published on an official Facebook page.

In the latest incident, a businessman died in a drive-by shooting in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday, police said.

Najib abolished the Emergency Ordinance two years ago as part of a move to boost civil liberties. The law allowed suspects to be detained for as many as two years with a minister's consent and had been introduced in 1969 following race riots. He also scrapped the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was introduced in 1960 to tackle a communist insurgency and gave police wide-ranging power to detain suspects indefinitely. The government is considering tabling new preventative laws in parliament, the premier said last month after Najadi's death.

"Underworld elements are bold enough to carry out these actions because they know for police to catch and arrest them it's going to be very challenging," P. Sundramoorthy, a professor of criminology at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said yesterday. "The Emergency Ordinance allowed police to create a case over hard-core criminals."

Sundramoorthy said Malaysia had not seen this many fatal shootings since a communist insurgency in the late 1950s and 1960s. Gun ownership in Malaysia is restricted, and holders are required to carry licences.

Murders rose 11 per cent to 322 in Malaysia in the first six months of this year compared with 2012, according to police statistics provided by the government's Performance Management and Delivery Unit. Total violent crimes increased 1.9 per cent to 15,098 in the same period, the data shows.

Najib's coalition was returned to power in Malaysia's May 5 general election by its narrowest margin since independence from Britain in 1957. The prime minister pledged during his campaign to make fighting crime and corruption a policy priority.

Voters cited crime and social problems as their biggest concern after the economy in a survey of 1,018 people conducted in December by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.

Najib also cited the potential for political misuse of the Emergency Ordinance and ISA among reasons for scrapping the laws. Opposition leaders including Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng and Karpal Singh had previously been held under the ISA.

The same regulation remains in Singapore.