Malaysia not to disband anti-immigrants body

December 8th, 2008 - 2:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Dec 8 (IANS) The Malaysian government has no plans to disband Rela, a body of vigilantes that detects illegal migrants, but will continue to improve the organisation, provide training and exposure to its members.Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said although there were instances of abuse by Rela members, there was no need to disband the volunteer organisation, adding that it had performed well.

“There are no plans whatsoever to disband Rela,” The Star quoted him as saying in reaction to a demand by the country’s Bar Council.

“The Bar Council surely has better things to do than to call for Rela to be disbanded,” he said in an interview.

The council made the call recently, citing numerous reports alleging that Rela members had abused their powers during enforcement raids.

Albar said that if there were problems within Rela, efforts should be made to tackle them.

“Rela has served the country well and has a useful purpose. Yes, there are instances of abuse, but we take quick action,” he said, adding that Rela members were also better disciplined now.

“These are volunteers and we want to encourage the spirit of volunteerism,” he said but noted that the government would not compromise on standards.

Syed Hamid said that the complaints against Rela were not big despite Rela having about 200,000 active members.

The Bar Council in a report said the Rela members were given only two weeks’ training and they went beyond detecting illegal migrants by carrying out raids.

However, the minister said that the present training was provided on a continuous basis and Rela members worked more closely with the police to increase their exposure.

“Rela does not lead any of the operations, but mostly complements the police and other enforcement agencies. We continue to look at ways to improve Rela,” he said.

According to the government, Malaysia is a haven for illegal migration with tourists and visitors from South Asia and some of the Southeast Asian neighbours overstaying in search of jobs.

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