COMMENT BY YB PROF DR.P.RAMASAMY, DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG
Is there a relationship between perception and high degree of Indian involvement in crimes?
I understand that a high percentage of Indians are on the death row in Singapore for drug trafficking. I think there are six or seven individuals including Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam awaiting to be executed.
Does this mean that more Indians are engaging in crime and are getting caught?
Or does this mean that there is inherent bias in the system that thinks Indians because of their lower economic status have a natural proclivities towards crime.
Or is it because they easily get caught by the authorities than others from other ethnic groups. I don’t think that there is an overt or covert attempts by the authorities to link crimes such as drug trafficking with ethnicity.
In Malaysia, high percentage of deaths in custody are mostly from Malays and Indians. Malays might be higher than Indians, but Indians have higher percentage relative to their population. I was told that high percentage of prisoners probably on remand are Indians.
The deaths of Malays and Indians in custody are invariably related to the way the police extract information by using harsh methods.
In the Indian community there is perception that Indians are more prone to die in custody than others.
Years of discrimination of Indians in every aspect of Malaysian society has conjured an image that the they are the unfortunate victims of racism, ethnic brutality and police shootings. Many Indians have died as result of police shootings.
Invariably those who face the brunt of the discrimination, deaths in custody and police shootings are Indians from the working class.
In Malaysia, there is unhealthy image that is being perpetrated that there close links between crimes and Indian involvement. I am not sure how the Singaporean society views the Indians whether they are Singaporeans or Malaysians.
A great number of Malaysian Indians work in Singapore, simply because there have no opportunities in Malaysia. By and large, Malaysian Indians in Singapore are hard working and a grateful for being given employment opportunities in Singapore.
Singapore’s laws do not discriminate against persons of different ethnicity. But this does not mean that there is no racism in Singapore. In fact, of late, racism has reared its ugly head against Indians and other minorities.
Racism has been suppressed in Singapore by the laws it doesn’t mean it has been eradicated. The high number of Indians on the death row might be just a accidental, it might not anything to do with Indians being singled out for crime.
It might be just unfortunate that they would caught with drugs and hence the law had to take its course. If there are high number of Indians on the death row, does it mean that members of the other ethnic groups don’t engage in drug trafficking.
Why are they not caught or do they use ingenious plans to escape police entrapment?
There are no clear answers as to why there is high number of Indians on the death row in Singapore.
What is worrisome is not the tough laws or the death penalty but the growing perception amongst the law enforcers in Singapore that Indians are more likely than others in committing crime than others.
I might be wrong, but perception is something subjective that might be measurable. Subjectivity is no less important.
This is the same in Malaysia, it is not laws or the capital punishment, but the worrisome fact of a growing unhealthy perception that Indians have the propensity to engage in crime.
If such a perception is prevalent than it is dangerous and not fair to the Indians in Singapore and Malaysia.
My concern is not so much in the exercise of the laws but how perceptions of crime and who might be in involved might influence the decision making in the apprehension of those involved.
I merely hinted at something such as perception about crimes and who might be involved without saying that a particular ethnic is being targeted. Ethnic profiling of crimes might be discernible in Malaysia, but I am not sure of Singapore.
Maybe universities and research institutes in Singapore would want to ponder on the question of whether certain ethical groups have the proclivity to engage in crimes.
Is it because of their ethnicity or because of their social, economic and political position?