A series of brazen shootings in recent weeks has roiled Malaysia, sparked a police crackdown on suspected gang members and worried citizens about crime, corruption and the prevalence of guns despite strict regulation of firearms in the nation.
"Something is going down," said Dave Avran, founder of MARAH (Malaysians Against Rape Assault and Snatch), a crime-watch group.
He believes the recent shootings could be connected to territorial drug wars. And foremost in the minds of the Malaysian public, he said, is the apparent prevalence of guns, despite strict firearms regulations.
"The borders separating Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines can be very porous. If alcohol and clove cigarettes can be smuggled into the country, what is another extra item like a gun? All you need is speedboat and to know where to land," Avran told Khabar Southeast Asia, adding that corruption could be another ingredient in the crime spree.
A spate of gun violence
A week of shootings and gun deaths galvanized the public safety problem for authorities and alarmed citizens.
On July 27th, a man riding pillion on a motorcycle shot Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force chairman R. Sri Sanjeevan, 29, as he sat in his car at an intersection at around 4.30pm in Seremban, capital of Negeri Sembilan. Once vocal on alleged links between law enforcement and organised crime, the critically-wounded Sanjeevan now fights for his life.
Two days later, the founder of Arab-Malaysian Banking group, 75-year-old Hussain Ahmad Najadi, was shot dead in broad daylight in the parking lot of a Chinese temple in Kuala Lumpur. Police named underworld figure Kong Swee Kwan as a main suspect and arrested three other people in connection with the shooting.
On July 31st, 26-year-old van driver N. Jeevandran died after being shot three times outside his home in Parit Buntar, a town near the Penang-Perak border.
Then, on August 3rd, resort developer Tiong Choon Kwong, 44, was shot dead by gunmen driving by a coffee shop in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The father of two had just stepped outside the shop to answer a cell phone call.
Strict gun laws
Malaysia has strict laws on the illegal possession of firearms, according to Jeffrey Yue, a retired banker who is treasurer of the Raub Shooting Association.
Yue said that back in 1988, it took him two years and extensive background checks to obtain a license for the Browning shotgun he uses to protect his Pahang orchard from monkeys and wild boars.
These days he said, obtaining a permit is even more difficult.
For national security reasons, quotas are enforced for new licenses and to his knowledge, are "almost impossible" to get.
"In the past, a nod from the state's police chief was enough," Yue told Khabar. "Now, it has to come from the Inspector-General and the Home Ministry."
Moreover, a weapon can be confiscated the moment authorities have reason to suspect violations have occurred, added Yue, who keeps his under lock and key.
The theory of a possible leak of weapons from government armouries is unlikely, Lt. Col. Hardial Singh Dhaliwal, formerly of the Malaysian Army logistics department, told Khabar.
"Strict procedures are involved when armament is drawn from the armoury. Nothing can be taken out without written permission from a commanding officer," said Dhaliwal. There is no way a weapon can be drawn without this authorization.
"To ensure there have been no unauthorised 'replacements', random spot checks are done on serial numbers."
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar assured the public it would be a matter of time before police close the recent spate of gun crime cases that have gripped the nation.
"Each case has its own background. We are not dealing with mad people with guns who will shoot people at their whims and fancies," Khalid told Bernama.