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Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi should be consistent in stopping arbitrary moral policing by ordering Terengganu to disband the Mat Skodeng (Peeping Toms) squad as they have so ordered Melaka in March 2005 and Federal Territory in January 2006
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi should be consistent in stopping arbitrary moral policing by ordering Terengganu to disband the Mat Skodeng (Peeping Toms) squad as they have so ordered Melaka in March 2005 and Federal Territory in January 2006. Despite a Cabinet directive every year that such Peeping Toms squad from states be banned, a different state would set up a Peeping Tom squad every year.
Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Mohd Ali Rustam in his capacity as 4B National Youth movement President in February 2005 before it was disbanded on the Cabinet's directive in March 2005. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz had said then that only the Religious Department can carry out enforcement and raids on vice activities and they must be accompanied by a police officer to ensure that the legal procedures are complied with.
In January 2006, the Federal Territory Religious Department formed another Mat Skodeng squad, which was also disbanded by Cabinet. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stressed that the Cabinet should be consistent and stand firm by its earlier decision that no groups should be formed to spy on people on the basis of moral grounds. Further, Cabinet had said a Mat Skodeng this is an invasion of privacy that could lead to legal repercussions.
As the Cabinet's stand applied to all states, and not just the Federal Territory and Malacca, the Terengganu State government should quickly comply before being directed by Cabinet to disband the Mat Skodeng squad. Whatever reason given by the Terengganu State EXCO that the Mat Skodeng squad will only report suspicious behaviour to the state Islamic affairs body and not even offer counseling is an unacceptable practice.
Malaysians have seen what happened when religious authorities abuse their power in Langkawi early last year when the hotel room of an elderly non-Muslim married American couple was raided by religious officers for allegedly committing khalwat. Such embarrassing situations had even prompted Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin to call for a stop against spying on couples.
Or the suggestion by a respected Islamic scholar that women wear chastity belts to prevent rape? Are we going to issue the same warning signs to tourists during the Visit Malaysian Year as that issued to drug traffickers, that tourists must "be prepared to be interrogated for close proximity offences" or female tourists wear chastity belts?
Or the court case of a young non-Muslim Chinese couple arrested by Kuala Lumpur City Hall enforcement officials at the KLCC Park for behaving indecently for holding hands or kissing. Today Star columnist Wong Chun Wai wrote of "a dean from the business faculty of a top Malaysian public university, for example, makes alleged spot checks during lectures to check on the dressing of female students. Students who he perceives are wearing tight T-shirts or blouses are singled out. At least on one occasion, they were asked to bend down to see whether parts of their bodies would be exposed."
This is most shocking and must be stopped by Cabinet or else it will drive away not only foreign tourists but present a real threat to the way of live of ordinary Malaysians who will be harassed and even threatened by moral guardians with their narrow subjective religious interpretation of decent dressing. Just as the Mat Skodeng squad in Terengganu has to be disbanded like those in Melaka and Federal Territory, such university lecturers have no right to teach to our young students.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP