This is Malaysia

It’s the first day of the Malay new year. Selamat Hari Raya to all my Malay friends.

It was supposed to be a happy occasion.

I made my first police report today. It wasn’t over anything serious, just someone who had been throwing crackers (illegal!) around although there were people (me and mom) walking by. One exploded right behind us – we turned back and saw a cloud of smoke. These two men repairing a car at the side of the road had been shocked as well; it really sounded like a gunshot.

I thought it was just a one-off, plus I had no idea who had thrown it, so we walked on. And then the second cracker exploded.

I turned back to observe, and saw a man flinging his arm out, followed by a loud bang and a cloud of smoke. There was the culprit.

I was mad. Notwithstanding that crackers were illegal, throwing them into the open like that was downright dangerous. So I walked back towards the building to confront him.

“Ah moi, cari apa?” (Little girl, what are you looking for?)

“Were you the one throwing crackers around?”

“Ya. What you want?”

“Do you know that there are people walking around? It’s very dangerous to throw crackers around like that!”

“No! There’s nobody!”

“You almost hit me, okay? Also crackers are illegal.” (OS: you fucking idiot)

“Oh okay lah sorry.”

I walked away, thinking that that was the end of it. Not ten seconds later the crackers started again. When I got home, I decided to call the police, thinking they would be able to be of help. I was definitely way too optimistic.

A lady answered the phone. I started speaking to her in English and she put me on hold before coming back and asking me what the problem was. I tried to tell her (again) what happened, when she interrupted me, saying,

“Can you speak Malay?”

“No.”

“Are you Malaysian?”

“Yes, but I don’t speak Malay.”

She put me on hold (again!!) and I could hear her in the background going “Dia cakap dia orang Malaysia tapi tak tau cakap Melayu.” (She said she’s Malaysian but cannot speak Malay). Honey, I may not be able to speak Malay, but I can understand whatever you’re saying.

She then came back and started speaking to me in Malay. I stopped her and asked if she understood English. She said she does, a little bit. In that case, I said, get someone who speaks English.

So a man came to the phone and I tried to make my report. It took four tries because (I assume) I was hung up on thrice. In the end he took down what I had to say (endangerment, unlawfulness of crackers) and said he will send his men over to check it out. I suppose he was higher ranked. Then he asked for my details, so he could send people over to talk to me about it. I refused as I only wanted to make an anonymous report. In the end he just said he’ll send people over to check out the man I described.

I’m not so naive to think he really would. From his tone, I doubt he was taking it seriously. I know this is tiny in the grand scheme of things, but it is the job of the police to enforce the law. If crackers were legal, I wouldn’t have reacted the way I did, but it’s illegal and if you can hear them going off around you should be doing something about it. Also, the way I had been put on hold multiple times and for so long, if this had been an emergency I probably would have died.

What are the police for if not to make the people in the community feel safe? The rate of crime in Malaysia these days is so ridiculous I dread going out. Targeted assassinations. Getting slashed while sitting at coffee shops. Break ins. I look over my shoulder where ever I go, being suspicious of everyone around me because no one can be trusted these days. This is the state Malaysia is in right now. This is the country I was born in by a stroke of (mis)fortune and what I have to live with for the next fifty-odd years. I can only hope and pray that nothing more dangerous, or bigger, than a man recklessly throwing crackers around happens to in the next five decades.

I can still hear the crackers.

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