Tuesday, October 23, 2012

RELA powers reduced...but should not this about 3 million strong volunteer corps be disbanded?

A good news for migrants in Malaysia is that the long call for the abolition of RELA has finally brought some changes. With the decision to repeal  Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 and theEssential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 also had to go, and is currently being replaced by a new law, entitled "Malaysia Volunteers Corps Bill 2012", which has been passed by Parliament on about 20/4/2012, and was then expected to be gazetted within a month. (I have not managed to find any source that confirms that this has been gazetted or when, but believe that it has been)

The struggle for the abolition of RELA, or at the very least the removal of some of its powers, has been on-going, more so since the government extended its powers vide Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) (Amendment) Regulations 2005, which also specifically targeted  "terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant...". RELA was literally a dead entity, that was revived to specifically target migrants, or maybe the 'real motive' was something else, possibly a political agenda/strategy to try to regain political support for the incumbent political parties in government. After all there was already so many available avenues for 'volunteers' to join including the volunteer police force, etc... why not just encourage Malaysians to join these already existing many volunteer bodies?

In any event, the 2007 Resolution of the Malaysian Bar is enclosed, which would also give the reader an appreciation of the issue. Following this is a newspaper report and a commentary which deals with this new law...

The 61st Annual General Meeting of the Malaysian Bar held at the Grand Ballroom, Legend Hotel, Kuala Lumpur - 17 March 2007 adopted the  Resolution proposed by Charles Hector and Francis Pereira unanimously. The motion was entitled, 

Motion For The End Of The State Of Emergency And An End To Law Enforcement” By The Untrained And Armed People's Volunteer Corps ( RELA)


1. On 31st August 2007, it will be 50 years since Malaysia achieved its independence and has been for over 30 years been a peaceful democratic nation.

2. It is sad that Malaysia is still in a state of Emergency as there exist today 4 Proclamation of Emergencies issued by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that is yet to be revoked.

3. Since independence, five states of emergency have been declared under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution. The first was the only one to have been revoked. The remaining four are still in operation. The second state of emergency was proclaimed in September 1964 when the country was faced with a campaign of violence from Indonesia. Although the threat ceased within less than two years, the state of emergency was never revoked.

4. The next state of emergency was declared on 14 September 1966 following the dismissal of the Chief Minister of the state of Sarawak. No violence - or threat of violence - resulted from the crisis. The government nevertheless proclaimed an emergency, confined to Sarawak. And although the crisis was soon resolved, the state of emergency has not been revoked.

5. The fourth proclamation came on 15 May 1969 following large-scale rioting and racial violence in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, during a general election. The violence led to several hundred casualties. As a result, further elections were postponed and parts of the Constitution suspended. Normalcy was restored soon - the legislature was reconvened and normal constitutional government restored in February 1971. However, the state of emergency has yet to be revoked.

6. On 8 November 1977, the fifth Emergency, limited to the state of Kelantan, was declared following a political crisis.

7. By reason of the proclamation of emergency, numerous legislations were enacted and are still in force, including also :- 

a) Emergency (Essential Powers) Act, 1964 (30/64), today known as the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979;
 b) Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969;
c) Essential (Security Cases) Regulations 1975

8. For example, Section 6 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979, states that ""For so long as the Proclamation of Emergency referred to in the preamble to this Act remains in force, the regulations made under the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act, 1964 (30/64) (except those regulations which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may by notification in the Gazette declare not to be in force) shall be in force and shall have effect as if they have been made under this Act; and the regulations may be amended, modified or repealed as if they have been made under this Act.". [The proclamation of emergency referred to in this Act was the proclamation issued on 15 May 1969.]

9. The Ikatan Relawan Rakyat or better known as RELA (a People's Volunteer Corps) came into being by virtue of Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 [P.U. 33/1966], under Emergency (Essential Powers) Act, 1964 (30/64), and continue to be in force by virtue of Section 6 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979.

10. By virtue of the Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) (Amendment) Regulations 2005, which came into operation on 1 February 2005, the powers of the Rela, have been dangerously over-extended giving RELA personnel the right to bear and use firearms, stop, search and demand documents, arrest without a warrant, and enter premises without a warrant. and all these powers can be exercised the RELA personnel has reasonable belief that any person is a terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or an occupier. Illegal immigrant and occupier (which would be Malaysians usually) was added on by this 2005 amendment.

11. These not-professionally trained volunteers has also now been accorded protection by the new amendments whereby it is stated that "...The Public Authorities Protection Act 1948 shall apply to any action, suit, prosecution or proceedings against the Ketua Pengarah Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat, Timbalan Ketua Pengarah Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat or any member of the Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat in respect of any act, neglect or default done or committed by him in good faith or any omission omitted by him in good faith, in such capacity."

12. Noting also that there has been numerous complaints that have surfaced in the media about the RELA not just from migrants but also Malaysians ranging from torture, gangster-like behavior, damage to property, wrongful arrest and detention and even the causing of deaths.

13. Its was reported that RELA arrested a total of 17,700 people believed to be illegal immigrants and screened 94,010 people up to September 2006, and that means 94,010 people (or 76,310) with proper documentations were subjected to unnecessary harassment and their right to a remedy in law is difficult. Of the people arrested, recent reports in the media indicate that many may even not be "illegal" or "undocumented" migrants at all.

- "...six foreign workers, all with legal travel and work documents, were whisked out of their quarters in a resort in Cherating in the wee hours of the morning on Dec 28 last year when RELA members "literally broke into their chalet and ordered them out." (The Star, January 12, 2007)."

- "...a team of 30 to 40 RELA members (half not in uniforms) turned up to look for foreign workers, assaulted some and allegedly stole cash and valuables during the raid. The companies, who lodged police reports, said that all the workers had legal work permits....."(The Star, December 4, 2006)

- "22 workers of an IT company were beaten and made to do a 50m "duck-walk" at Section 30 in Shah Alam..." (The Star, February 16, 2006)

- Residents of about 10 households in Taman Anggerik, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, complained that RELA personnel crashed into their homes after breaking door locks and smashing gates, and told them that they [RELA] were looking for illegal workers. The residents said the RELA personnel acted like gangsters and showed them no respect. When they asked the RELA personnel to explain why they crashed into their homes, they were told "we are the law." Cash totaling RM3,756 in a drawer was subsequently found missing. (The Star, October 17, 2006)

14. There have also been report of beatings and even deaths caused by RELA volunteers. As an example, in early 2006 it was reported that Ahmad Apik, 35, and Edy Sathurrohman, 26, both Indonesians, lost their lives, and they each left behind a wife and 2 young children. (Star, January 23, 2006).

15. The policy and practice of paying members of the People's Volunteer Corps (RELA) RM80-00 for each undocumented migrant must be stopped (The Star, January 23, 2006). Even MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Michael Chong claimed that the reward offered had made RELA volunteers desperate to nab as many illegals as possible. (The Star January 23, 2006)

15. Malaysia is a developed country and professionally trained enforcement personnel should be used for law enforcement, and the use of volunteers like the RELA must end.

16. Some migrants may be undocumented, but they are still human beings and deserved to be treated humanely and should be accorded equal protection under the law.

17. Malaysia, a party to the April 1999 BANGKOK DECLARATION ON IRREGULAR MIGRATION, which clearly states "Irregular [undocumented] migrants should be granted humanitarian treatment, including appropriate health and other services, while the cases of irregular migration are being handled, according to law. Any unfair treatment toward them should be avoided" must adhere to its commitments.

18. New laws can always be enacted by a parliament in times of peace if needed.


a) That we, the Malaysian Bar, call upon the Yang Di-Pertuan Agung to revoke all existing Proclamations of Emergency in Malaysia;

b) That we, the Malaysian Bar call for the repeal all legislations and Acts that were enacted and continue to be in force by reason of the now existing unrevoked Proclamations of Emergency;

c) That we, the Malaysian Bar reiterate our call for the repeal of Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 and the Essential (Security Cases) Regulations 1975;

d) That we, the Malaysian Bar specifically call for the repeal of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Act 1979 and all Regulations and Rules made thereunder, in particular Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) Regulations 1966 [P.U. 33/1966], as amended by the Essential (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat) (Amendment) Regulations 2005;

e) That we, the Malaysian Bar call for the employment and usage of only properly trained professional law enforcement personnel in Malaysia;

f) That we, the Malaysian Bar urge that inquests be conducted for Ahmad Apik, Edy Sathurrohman and for the other persons who have died as result of alleged RELA actions;

g) That we, the Malaysian Bar urge that all persons including undocumented migrants and/or refugees be treated humanely and accorded equal protection of the law;

h) That we, the Malaysian Bar call on the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families;

i) That we, the Malaysian Bar call on the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The motion was unanimously carried.

 Source: Charles Hector Blog

 2,924,065 RELA , about 90,000 armed forces, about 90,000 - 100,000 police...

THE powers of the People's Volunteer Corps (Rela) will be outlined in a new law which comes into effect next month. The new Act is aimed at preventing the abuse of power and impersonation of Rela members. Under the new law, which also sets the enrolment age for Rela members at 18 and limits their tenure to five years, they will no longer have the power to detain, arrest or carry firearms. 

PETALING JAYA: A new law to refine the powers of the People's Volunteer Corps (Rela) comes into effect next month with strict measures to curb misuse of authority and impersonation of its members.

Under the Malaysia Volunteers Corps Bill 2012 passed in Parliament on April 20 and expected to be gazetted next month, Rela members would no longer have the power to make arrests or carry firearms.

Anyone found guilty of impersonating a Rela member can be jailed up to three years, fined a maximum of RM5,000 or both.

The law also requires those who are no longer members to return their uniforms and certificate of appointment within 14 days of leaving the corps.

Previously, it was not an offence for them to keep their uniforms even after resigning from the agency.

“Those who fail to return the uniforms and certificate after leaving can now be taken to court,” said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong, adding that the maximum penalty for doing so would also be a prison term of three years, a fine of RM5,000 or both.

The new law also limits the period of enrolment for Rela members to five years, after which, the status of membership has to be renewed by an authorised officer.

Those below the age of 18 would also have their membership revoked under the increased age requirement when the Malaysia Volunteers Corps Act 2012 comes into force from June 22. The existing enrolment age for Rela members is 16 for girls and 17 for boys.

As of March 31, the total number of volunteers in the corps stood at 2,924,065.

Lee said the new law was expected to curb crime cases involving the impersonation of Rela members.

In March last year, police arrested two men who robbed and raped a woman after claiming to be police officers.

Two of their accomplices, including a Rela member who had lent his handcuffs to the duo, were held.

In 2006, robbers masquerading as Rela members drove off with RM47mil worth of microchips from the air cargo complex in Penang.

MCA Public Complaints and Services Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong, who is also an honorary Rela member, welcomed the move to limit the membership to five years saying it would facilitate the management of members.

However, he said making Rela members return their uniforms would not be effective in addressing impersonation.

“If people want to misuse the uniform, they can easily buy it at shops or even online,” he said yesterday.

Chong said there were numerous shops selling uniforms and paraphernalia of all enforcement agencies, complete with their rank.

“This can only be addressed through strict enforcement on the sale of these uniforms,” he said.

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said there was no reason for former members to hold on to their uniforms.

“We don't want to see people who are no longer Rela members misusing the uniforms to carry out or enforce laws,” he said.

Rela director-general Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim said the Home Minister would be making an official announcement on the Bill and several other laws passed recently.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had earlier said in Parliament that the Government had taken the public's views into consideration when drafting the Bill. - Star, 28/5/2012, New law refines Rela powers


Volunteer corps still Rela-vant?


The time has to come to ask whether the three million strong Rela is still relevant to our times and if it should be substantially scaled down.
ONE of the most amazing things about the People’s Volunteer Corps, or Rela, is simply its size – almost three million strong, that’s more than one for every 10 men, women and children who live in Malaysia and may be about the population of core Kuala Lumpur!
In comparison, Armed Forces personnel in Malaysia account for a mere 90,000 while the police account for a like number compared with the 2.94 million Rela members as at March 31, according to news reports.
That means Rela members outnumber Armed Forces personnel by more than 30 to one and both Armed Forces and the police personnel by more than 15 to one.
The circumstances under which it was formed are somewhat vague and why its size increased to become so large is puzzling. It was set up in 1972 under the Emergency Act 1964.
The rationale apparently was after the May 1969 racial riots, they were needed to help the police preserve and maintain national peace and security. But it was some three years after the riots.
In 2005, Rela members had their roles substantially expanded. The amendment of the Essential (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat) Regulations in 2005 expanded Rela’s powers to include the right to bear and use firearms, stop, search and demand documents, arrest without a warrant, and enter premises without a warrant.
These powers can be exercised if Rela members have reasonable belief that any person is a terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or an occupier. Under the Public Authorities Protection Act 1948, Rela officers are immune from prosecution in relation to their conduct.
Subsequently, there were many reports and allegations about Rela members exceeding their authority, including a recent case where a suspected robber was beaten to death in a condominium.
Reports also cited Rela members as having been involved in crime, while others have impersonated Rela officers to commit crimes.
It was this that probably prompted the Government to revise the laws to restrict the powers of Rela members. It was reported that under the Malaysia Volunteers Corp Bill 2012, passed in Parliament on April 12 and expected to be gazetted next month, Rela members will no longer have the power to carry firearms or make arrests.
Impersonating a Rela officer becomes a crime which is punishable with a fine and a jail sentence of up to three years, while the law requires officers to return their uniforms and certificates of appointment within 14 days of leaving the corp.
These are welcome moves by the Government, but there is also a need to severely restrict and curtail the power of Rela lest it becomes a law unto itself. With its membership outnumbering police and Armed Forces personnel by 15 to one, that is an overriding concern that the Government must address.
To have nearly three million citizens in a volunteer force which has access to arms is clearly undesirable and it is now necessary to ensure that arms held by Rela members are returned according to set procedures so that there is no chance whatsoever of them being misused.
The other factor that needs to be raised is costs. How much does it take to train three million people in the use of firearms and law and order maintenance?
The question that is crying out to be asked is why not use this money to recruit and train full-time policemen who can then be deployed on the streets to fight crime on a daily basis and who will be fully and professionally trained in the use of firearms, the law and crime-fighting?
It may be easily possible to increase the size of the force by, say, 50% and give police personnel more benefits, too.
If it is the intention of the Government to bring a large section of the public into the area of law enforcement, civil defence and as reserve force to protect the country from external threats, then the best way to do that is to go for national service so that all sections of the public are represented in the defence corp.
Otherwise, it would be better for the Government to go the full distance in terms of reforming Rela and make it a much smaller auxiliary force which will merely supplement the police in terms of non-force duties such as traffic control at events and so on.
That will mean a substantial scaling back of Rela so that its size is no more than the size of the police and armed forces combined and its members reflect the population composition of the country.
The first steps have been taken no doubt, but it would be better if reform of Rela went the whole way.
> Independent consultant and writer P. Gunasegaram detests half measures. If something is worth changing, it is worth changing well. -Star, 30/5/2012, Volunteer corps still Rela-vant?