The Royal Malaysia Police found itself in the spotlight last week after it emerged that a host of senior officers, including the Inspector-General and his deputy, had gone to Istanbul on a trip paid for by a private gambling company.
The sponsorship was later confirmed by the Home Ministry as being approved by the Malaysia Totalisator Board, a Finance Ministry agency that regulates racing and betting activities.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the officers went on the trip to learn about how to combat online gambling. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the trip was approved in 2017 and did not require his ministry’s go-ahead.
Notably, the police force itself has remained silent amid public criticism. Some reports estimate that the cost of the air tickets would have come to about RM15,000 per officer, not including accommodation and other expenses.
The trip raises many questions.
First, there is the fact that a private profit-oriented party sponsored such a working trip for the police. No less damaging was that it was not disclosed publicly, but instead brought to public attention by a whistleblower.
Secondly, given the reported total cost of RM300,000 for the trip, couldn’t the training have been arranged in Malaysia at a lower cost?
And the participants were also members of the top brass rather than policemen who are actually on the ground tackling illegal gambling activities, who would have benefited more from any such training.
These factors will inevitably hurt the reputation and credibility of the police among the public. This apparent lapse in judgement by the police and the authorities warrants a proper explanation.