The bogeyman’s to blame

The bogeyman’s to blame

By MARINA MAHATHIR

The Star

We see the constant blaming of foreign workers for all our ills, but none of it can really stand up to scrutiny. 

IT’S a tried and true political strategy that when things aren’t quite rosy, one should distract the people by focusing on something else or coming up with a bogeyman.  

The former diverts attention from what is really on peoples’ minds, while the latter seeks someone or something else to blame. Sometimes politicians even attempt a combination of both. 

A recent survey by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research polled people on several issues, including what they deemed most currently important. At the top of the list was price increases and inflation.  

Second, they are concerned about ethnic inequalities; and third, about crime and public safety. Everything else, including politics, corruption, drug abuse and illegal immigrants rank much further down the list. 

What we think people should be concerned with, and what they actually are, can sometimes be very different. But anyone with a modicum of insight will already know that the issues highlighted in the survey are what people talk about all the time.  

People are concerned about how they may go about their daily lives at a reasonable level of comfort and safety.  

Can their lives carry on as before, or even improve? And can they and their families walk about without fear for their personal safety? 

They obviously also see ethnic inequalities as a contributing threat to the peaceful environment in which they can earn a living, work and play securely. 

But are these what matters to those up there? Instead, we have old stories regurgitated to distract from what is new.  

For instance, the old story that in an opposition-held state supermarket lines are gender-segregated came immediately after an uproar over similarly-segregated schools in government-held states.  

At least, in the first instance, this was a policy that was announced by the government in power, but in the second it was happening in defiance of regulations.  

Both cases are of course “Band-Aid policies”, where male bad behaviour is accepted as normal while females are inconvenienced, rather than (shock, horror) empowered to deal with it. 

The bogeyman tactic is rather like Margaret Thatcher starting a war over some distant islands in order to distract the populace from local economic issues.  

Here, we see the constant blaming of foreign workers for everything, from lack of jobs, to crime and violence, and to the spread of diseases. None of it can really stand up to scrutiny.  

It may be politically correct to complain about foreign workers taking jobs from locals, but these are not jobs that locals want.  

Who exactly wants to work in plantations, clean toilets or care for other people’s babies?  

If it were true that locals want these jobs, then we should set up job agencies specialising in filling up these vacancies with only locals. 

It is disingenuous to say that foreigners keep “pouring in” to take up employment here when we know that many of these foreigners are being duped into selling everything they have to pay unscrupulous agents, and then finding that no jobs await them here.  

If these jobs do not exist for them, then obviously they don’t exist for locals either. 

Neither is it honest to say that foreigners are contributing to the rise in crime in this country. The police statistics themselves dispute these.  

According to a fascinating paper by the Royal Malaysian Police, in 2004, the proportion of crimes committed by foreigners was only 2% of the total crime index, and on a per capita basis Malaysians commit more crimes than foreigners.  

Incidentally, the police statistics do not really support the perception that there is a huge rise in violent crime. Most crimes in the country are in fact property crimes such as car theft. 

But it serves political purposes to fuel this negative perception of foreigners with racist and stereotyped “facts”. For instance, it is not true that foreigners are running around full of disease and infecting locals.  

Malaysians still make up the vast majority of people infected with HIV, and they are certainly infecting each other and not foreigners.  

To imply that we should bar foreigners from coming in because of their alleged criminal intent and diseases is actually not going to contribute much to any sustainable solution.  

Incidentally, the same police paper puts the blame on economic inequalities and unemployment as the reasons for crime, a situation not unlike many countries in the world. 

Ahead of elections, we need to keep focused on the real issues, even while politicians try to distract us with fairytales.

Kudos to honest foreign worker at food court

JOANNE CHONG RODRIGUES,  Kuala Lumpur.  

I AGREE with Marina Mahathir’s “The bogeyman’s to blame,” (The Star, Jan 30). She provided examples and statistics to clear the misconception that the influx of foreign workers is the reason behind the increasing crime rate. 

I attest to the fact that foreigners cannot be blamed for the rising crime rates.  

We are expatriates from Singapore living in KL for the past year. On Jan 19, my family and I were dining at the MidValley Food Junction. Due to my carelessness, I left my wallet there. 

I lodged a police report with the hope of retrieving the wallet with important documents intact.  

The next day, my bank contacted me to say that someone had found my wallet and called them as the telephone number was on my bankcard.  

When I went to collect my wallet, I was amazed to note that it was a staff of the Food Junction who found my wallet on the table.  

The money was still in it and no documents were missing. 

I would like to thank Omar Faruk who took the effort to report the matter to his branch manager Kassim Lakana. 

It was the latter that took the initiative to contact my bank. 

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Omar for his integrity. 

Your actions have definitely changed our perception of foreign workers in KL.