Sunday July 15, 2012
Fact or coincidence?
By Andrew Lo
Long-term solution to poverty and crime should be by ensuring everyone has decent jobs with reasonable pay.
IT just had to happen. On Friday, burglars broke into the Sarawak Bank Employees Union (SBEU) building in Sarikei.
The burglars gained access by cutting down the door with a chainsaw. They also broke into the first floor, which was rented out to a government agency. Among the items looted were three computers and some office equipment.
This means that all six SBEU offices statewide have been broken into, some more than once. Our HQ in Kuching and the Miri office were broken into twice.
At this rate the insurance company will definitely increase our premium!
Coincidence? Work of anti-unions? Or is crime on the rise, affecting everyone? Yet the police claimed that the crime rate has come down.
Just the day before, on Thursday, a gunman shot two patrons of a coffee shop in Kuching in a brazen attack in broad daylight.
The week before a company executive had her hand chopped off.
And last month, a bank manager was hacked to death in his own home in Sibu.
Sure these just count as three crimes in the police’s KPI, but they etch into people’s mind and perpetuate a climate of fear.
Someone said that we should focus on the crimes that have been solved, not just the ones that have been committed.
Well, all the SBEU office break-ins were never solved. And did I mention that the president, secretary-general and treasurer-general’s cars had also been stolen?
Sarawakians are very concerned about the huge number of house break-ins and other crimes such as vehicle theft, cable theft, and snatching.
The situation is getting very alarming with armed robberies now happening, not just break-ins. Apparently, no one is safe, including the VIPs with their state-of-the-art alarm systems, security guards and heavily-fortified homes.
It is very easy to blame the police for all this. There is the perennial complaint about lack of manpower.
Perhaps more police and special branch personnel should be diverted from being outriders and VIP escorts to fight crime.
I still remember two years ago when the police claimed that they did not have manpower to come to the SBEU HQ to investigate a break-in, but had more than 40 officers and men watching over 11 union members picketing.
I believe we must have a hard look at the underlying cause for all these crimes.
It is no coincidence that the crime rate has increased in tandem with the influx of foreign workers, both legal and illegal.
The crime rate has also increased in tandem with the increase in the huge cost of living that is not matched by wage increase.
It is widely accepted that the underlying motivation for commercial crime is financial ‘reward’, either driven by greed or economic necessity.
I think that for a large number of commercial crimes, the main driver is economic necessity and substance abuse.
If people are to risk their lives cutting through power cables to sell for RM1 per kg, then it is reasonable to argue that it is economic necessity that drove them to resort to such a crime, just like stealing a mobile phone to sell at RM30 or a motorcycle at RM300.
The long-term solution is to ensure that Malaysians have decent jobs with reasonable pay. And there must be minimal foreign workers. We must do away with foreign workers as their numbers, both legal and illegal, have reached more than three million. One in every four workers is a foreigner.
The Government must realise that employers employ foreign workers not because Malaysians shun such jobs, but because employers through their economic might have suppressed wages.
As a result, locals either leave Sarawak for jobs elsewhere (or turn to crime) hence opening the door for RM409-a-month (according to the Sarawak Timber Association) foreign workers.
These will further drive wages down, as workers have to compete with foreign workers for jobs.
Now every Malaysian is paying the price in terms of the high crime rate.
Of course, billionaires are protected in their heavily fortified mansions or holiday homes overseas.
The Government to its credit recently has been taking concrete steps to help mitigate the problem.
The minimum wage of RM800 for Sarawak was announced and the Retirement Age Bill (which set the minimum retirement age for private sector at 60) was passed by Parliament.
I call on the minimum wage as well as the retirement age to be implemented by Jan 1 next year.
This will encourage employers to invest in productivity improvement through modern equipment, production processes, and better human resources management and reduce foreign workers.
It must be noted that spending on research and development by the private sector in Malaysia is extremely low.
The retirement age will also help to reduce foreign workers.
Just compare Changi airport in Singapore where Singaporeans in their late fifties and early sixties are efficiently maintaining the airport, while KLIA is flooded with foreign workers.
The sad irony is that the security guard industry players are the strongest opponent of minimum wage and is demanding that the minimum wage be delayed by five years for them.
The industry pays security guards so low that they have to work triple shift to earn a decent income.
As a result, the level of professionalism and effectiveness of the guards leaves much to be desired.
This makes the properties they are guarding just as vulnerable to crime.
Locals shun the job of security guards because of the low wages and employers then use this excuse to convince the Government to let them bring in 20,000 Nepalese.
So there you go. We now bring in foreigners to guard our properties against crimes that are linked with the presence of foreign workers.