Apathy is the greatest crime

©Malay Mail
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
ON Feb 26, a clerk in her 20s was gang-raped and abused for six hours at a Chinese cemetery in Sungai Buloh by three men, and last Wednesday an 18-year-old woman, five-months pregnant, was abducted outside her house in Tanjung Sepat and raped by four men at an oil palm estate.

It is a stain on our collective conscience that we are no longer shocked, outraged or horrified by such news.

We should be disturbed to the core of our souls by such reports of behaviour that exceed all civilised expectations, and the frequency of these reports, but instead we huddle beneath our coconut shells of false security and cling to the silent hope that these things happen only to other people.

And yet there these crimes are, real and terrible to behold when at last it happens to us or someone we know; and the sad truth is that we have had to deal in recent years with an escalation of these crimes and the fact that children and even infants aren’t spared.

Even now, six other alleged rapists are high on the police wanted list and some have been in hiding for over a decade, and the police cite a lack of resources and public apathy as the two prime challenges they face.

We can certainly understand the first problem.

We are quick to point fingers at the police when we believe they have failed in their duties, or when we seek to charge them with corruption, abuse of power, and other crimes — these are certainly valid concerns and the community should worry indeed if it cannot trust those tasked with enforcing the law.

But part and parcel of our rights and freedoms as citizens is our individual responsibility to the community as a whole: This, however, continues to elude our understanding.

While we are certainly entitled to expect of our police force the protection, service and dedication of a professional and modern law-enforcement agency, we must also understand that community policing plays a large and critically important role in all modern societies.

How many remember four-year-old Iswaran Navindran, who died in early January as a result of physical abuse at the hands of those responsible for his care? How many remember reports of the nights of screaming issuing from the back of the shophouse where he was imprisoned?

And were it not for the selfless actions of a Good Samaritan who rescued the boy and his seven-year-old sister Vinothini, Iswaran’s death would have gone ignored and those responsible would have gone unpunished, safe in the knowledge that life in Malaysia is cheap.

And what about the lives of those who have been raped and abused by monsters who we should be truly ashamed to call our fellow Malaysians?

Our anger, if it manifests at all, lasts only as long as a day or two before our attention is seized by something else: Victims are forgotten, crimes are forgotten, and evil-doers are free to strike again.

Who are the bigger monsters: Those who perpetrate these crimes or those who allow them to happen silently and without thought or care?

Wake up Malaysia. This is our country and we have none to blame for apathy but ourselves.

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