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A personal account by Johnson Fernandez in Kuala Lumpur
I look nervously at my watch, probably for the fifth time in the last five minutes. It’s 10.30 pm.
My wife walks into the living room from the kitchen. “Is she home yet?” she asks.
“No,” I reply. “Didn’t she say what time she’d be back? Why don’t you call her and see where she is.”
I am agitated. My daughter’s a big girl. She’s 23. She was out with a friend for a movie and dinner.
Normally, I would not have been so edgy. She’s been out late before, sometimes even for midnight movies.
But these are hardly normal times.
A string of murders, gangland-style, has gripped the nation. Since April this year, there have been about 40 gun-related incidents, resulting in 25 deaths.
I live in a gated and guarded community. Yet, as I pass the guardhouse, a notice is a grim reminder of how close danger lurks. It reminds residents of two cases:
1.House broken into by four robbers armed with parang along Jalan 2/62C
2. House owner’s Toyota Fortuner was robbed at gun point along Jalan 2/62
That’s just three streets away from where I live.
Mind you, this is a guarded and gated area for which residents pay an annual fee. Yet we are exposed..
Though the authorities have said the recent killings were gang-related, it has created a climate of fear among netizens. They say the repealing of the Emergency Ordinance has unleashed about 2,600 criminals back on the streets. Some of them are exacting revenge on those whom they suspect had snitched on them.
Yet others want to take back control of their turf — the lucrative drug trade, loan sharking, prostitution rackets.
Still, there is cause for worry. The oft-heard “wrong place, wrong time” keeps ringing in the head.
Yes, it may be gang-related. Yes, it may be a turf war. But there would be collateral damage.
And I have no wish for those close and dear to me to be part of that statistic.
Whether it is my daughter, wife, sons or their wives…I remind them to be aware of their surroundings.
Do not be out on the road if you do not need to be. Fuel up during the day,” I remind them. “Do not get out of the car immediately. Look around. Look into the kiosk and see if everything is normal.”
Just last week, a friend walked right into a robbery at a Petronas station and was greeted with a machete at her neck.
She was unharmed but lost her wallet, mobile and some jewellery
“Alfresco dining” at the local mamak stalls are a Malaysian delight. Most of these places operate from dawn to dusk. Such was the business.
But lately these places (shops and stalls) have been deserted. Gangs with machetes have attacked these outlets . Customers have lost their mobiles, jewellery, money and a host of other valuables.
People are opting to stay home, perhaps the instant noodles in the comfort and safety of one’s own home a better option now.
Then, there are the incidental accidents.
“If you are knocked, don’t worry about the dent. Drive straight to a pollice station or if you are closer to home, get back to the house. Just be safe,” I keep pounding, especially into my daughter and wife.
We have lost our freedom. This is not a free country anymore. We live in fear.
We are close to losing a very basic human right — freedom of movement.
And yet while our home is our castle, we remain vulnerable to the shenanigans, the beasts and the desperadoes.