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Malaysia Killings Surge Spurs Crackdown Using Detention Law

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Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysia began using a law for the first time to hold suspects without filing charges in a crackdown on violence after at least eight killings in the country in less than a month, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Police apprehended 200 people using Section 105 of the Crime Prevention Act to detain suspects for an initial 24 hours without charging them, Bernama reported citing Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar. Five suspected armed criminals were shot dead in the northern city of Penang by police this morning, the official Bernama news service reported, citing the state’s police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi.

“People are becoming concerned of crimes being committed in broad daylight,” Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters today in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, confirming the crackdown. “We are having very intensive discussion over whether we require additional laws.”

The rise in violence is partly due to the abolition of the Emergency Ordinance two years ago, which led to 2,600 people being released from detention, the malaymailonline reported July 9, citing Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Prime Minister Najib Razak repealed the law, which allowed people to be held for two years without trial, in a bid to boost civil liberties.

The Crime Prevention Act means people can be held for as long as 70 days, subject to approvals at various stages, providing time for police to gather evidence, according to Paul Low, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department overseeing graft and human rights. They can also be released and placed under police supervision for up to five years, he said in an interview in the capital today.

Electronic Tagging

“The act has been there but not used,” Low said. “If I look at human rights I can’t be too idealistic. I’m more interested in protecting the safety and security of the larger population.”

The government is also considering allowing electronic tagging, he said.

The police action comes after a surge in crime that included the July 29 slaying of AMMB Holdings Bhd. founder Hussain Ahmad Najadi. The prime minister’s coalition was returned to power in May elections by its narrowest margin since independence from Britain in 1957. Najib promised during his campaign to make fighting crime and corruption a policy priority.

Crime Concern

Voters cited crime and social problems as their biggest concern after the economy, according to a survey of 1,018 people conducted in December by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research.

A 26-year-old man in the town of Kapar was killed Aug. 15 by a gunman riding the back of a motorcycle, a shooting police suspect is related to a gang rivalry, the Star newspaper reported, citing North Klang deputy police chief superintendent Jani Ahmad. In Dungan, a restaurateur was shot to death outside his eatery Aug. 13 during what police said was an attempt to steal his Toyota Hilux, according to the New Straits Times, citing Terengganu Criminal Investigation Department Chief Assistant Commissioner K. Manoharan.

This month there have been three shootings in Penang, including one man killed at point-blank range at a traffic light, according to an incidents list compiled by the Star newspaper and confirmed by police. An unemployed man was killed and a woman injured in Kelantan state. There was also a shooting at the Thai border, the list showed.

A primary school clerk was killed when a package he took from the top of a relative’s car exploded in Kelantan, the Star reported, citing local criminal investigations chief Lai Yong Heng.

To contact the reporter on this story: Manirajan Ramasamy in Kuala Lumpur at rmanirajan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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