Trigger-happiness could recklessly result with injuries and fatalities
Reading the article “Fishing jaunt turns into trip of terror for seven friends” (Star, 15 Feb 07) sent a chilling nerve down my spine. Seven friends who were on a fishing and diving jaunt off Lumut were allegedly threatened with guns by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) who fall under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department. APMM had accused the seven friends of entering an off limit zone.
The alleged high-handed tactics of the marine police who are supposed to be guardians of the law are arrogant and shows blatant disrespect of abiding the laws and the police code of conduct. Worse still, it indicates wanton carelessness in protecting the value of human life. Rather than behaving like marine police and upholding the law, the marine police seem to be acting like pirates.
There are two issues here on the action of shooting the bullet into the sea – one dealing with damages against the eco-system, the other and more importantly, possible loss of life.
Let’s deal with the minor issue first. Fishermen are barred from letting go grenades into the sea for fear of disrupting the marine eco-system. While the explosion would cause lots of fish to die from immediate injury or shock and float up for the fishermen to net, environmentalist protest this method of fishing as it destroys the natural eco-system like the coral reefs, and other form of the natural marine life-cycle, besides causing water-pollution.
Secondly, on a more alarming note, what if the bullet had hit the two divers underwater? Would APMM shoulder responsibility for the injuries sustained or if life was taken from being shot at or drowning due to impediment to swimming from bullet wounds sustained?
There were no threats or resistance against the marine police. All the boat-captain asked was for some time to call the divers back up the deck. As a responsible captain, he could not just abandon the 2 divers in the middle of the sea with no land in sight.
It is irresponsible and callous for the marine police to demand that the boat captain sail the boat back to the APMM base in Lumut whilst leaving the two divers still underwater stranded. No charges were read against the boat captain and the other people fishing or the divers.
If the divers had really steered off course, international practice requires that a verbal warning or advisory be given at least once, particularly for this case when the civillians on the boat were completely unarmed. Trigger happiness whether into the air or into the ground or in this case, into the sea by security personnel is akin to “shooting to kill.” This action is simply reprehensible and totally unacceptable behaviour by any international standards and suggests illegitimate power abuse by uniformed authorities.
How is Malaysia ever going to promote our coral reefs and marine life as an international diving destination for foreign and domestic tourists when genuine fears abound over trigger happy marine police? More pertinently, how do we restore faith in the public when doubts of power abuse overshadow the supposed incorruptibility of the police?
By Lovely Jin