Shocking behavior by Malaysian traffic police

It was appalling. I felt traumatized and I’m still trying to come to
terms with what happened. I could not believe that this…this, totally
unacceptable behavior is being practiced within the ranks of the
traffic police in Malaysia, but now that I’ve witnessed it first hand,
I fear I would never look at them in the same way.

711 groceries ticket

Let me start from the beginning. I was driving home from work and
decided to stop by the nearest 7-Eleven to get my usual purchase – two
packet drinks with two straws, one Livita (“energy drink” which comes
in a perfectly shaped glass bottle), a pack of Marlboro Reds and five
lighters. I patronize this outlet often, always with the same
purchases, so no one asked me about my apparent fondness for lighters
after the third or forth time, since I always answer “I keep on
forgetting where I put them”, and if they though it was rather amazing
for someone to lose an average of two lighters a day, they did not
comment on that part.

I thought today was just another day, dropping in to get some stuff
on my way home. I parked at my usual spot, right opposite the road
(that’s the traffic flow from my route home). This is not a designated
parking area, since it has the potential to cause a 50% decrease in
traffic flow throughout put, since you…well, basically occupy the
left lane of the two lane road. I’ve never had any problems before, I
know where they display the items I want so it’s a 3 minute, in and out
situation.

People here are used to irresponsible drivers taking up one lane as
parking space, that always happens in the exit from my workplace too,
we actually have to take turns to pass, two way traffic running on just
one lane since the other is full of parked vehicles. You might as well
save yourself some time, since they will just merge into the one free
road. I have to turn around and go back using a longer route if I
choose to park on the same side, so I never bothered, since it’s quick
anyway. I just get out of the car, cross the road to the other side,
get my stuff and I’m back in my car within minutes.

Today was different though…it was the first of the strange events
that occurred – a traffic police in uniform and actually patrolling
during after office rush hour! I chided myself for being silly and
imagining things. Traffic police do not work during periods where
traffic management is needed, their work hours varies, but most of them
seem to prefer night patrols from what I see. I know they definitely
avoid peak hour, where they would have to do actual work, like
directing traffic. ;)

711 saman
The parking ticket

I went back to the drinks fridge and grabbed two Milo packet drinks
from the fridge. I’m not particular about the drinks per se, I just
want the straws. I was reaching for a glass bottle of Livita when I
heard the store supervisor call to me, “Hey, isn’t that your car?”
Indeed it was, as the transparent shop front revealed to me. I could
see a man dressed in standard issue Malaysian traffic police garb. He
seemed to be writing down the license plate of the car in front of me
and I cracked “Wah, sekarang polis cepat saman, huh?” (Wow, the police
are getting more efficient in issuing out parking tickets/traffic
summons nowdays, huh?) to the supervisor, who grinned.

I wasn’t bothered about the traffic policeman. Yes, I was legally
not supposed to park there, and yes, theoretically, it would affect the
traffic flow. It won’t affect the individual much, probably just a
couple of seconds as the left lane merges into right. Also, most
Malaysians tend to prefer “on the spot fines” for minor traffic
infractions, and the enforcement officers naturally does not find this
arrangement to be objectionable, for obvious reasons.

I have extensive experience in situations like these and I’m also
familiar with the current going rates for “ticket less fines”, made
payable to the acting traffic policeman, if you catch my drift. I just
use my standard fishing for a bribe settlement, though most times the
police suggest it first. ;) Nothing I would mind parting with, off my
memory, the last experience was quite recent, stopped by a traffic
patrol somewhere at night in King Center, the violation was the
horrific crime of not wearing seatbelts. They have to draft up
legislation like that since they know what’s best for us, you see. That
last time was RM 20, I think, for the both of us, negotiated down from
the initial price. He also mentioned using cell phones while driving,
which was true, but I didn’t know he knew so I obviously didn’t bring
it up.

He let that one go, but I can still vividly remember him going on
about how this is not even close to the fine we would have to pay if he
wrote a ticket, which was rather moot, since we all know he’ll prefer
the former over the latter any day. Heh. I have long since marveled at
the apparently amazing optical feats that they seem to be capable of
performing. It was night, with just a couple of ambient street lights,
and the car has tinted windows, and he was still able to notice the
infraction(s). He did not miss his calling, I’ll tell you that. ;)

Going further back in history, I think the most expensive Kopi-O
(roughly translated as “black coffee”, used in the literal context,
i.e. buying someone a drink – a euphemism for the rampant bribery here
that has made it into a socially acceptable practice, nay, the norm,
for many years) I ever shelled out was RM 50 for a measly illegal
U-turn infraction. That’s the problem – I only had one single note of
currency inside my wallet then and it’s a RM 50 bill, and you can’t
exactly ask for change while bribing someone. That was when I was in
Kuching many years ago, when I did my college here, before dropping out.

The reason I had to pay that much then (1997, I think) was due to
the fact that my driver’s license just got reinstated after being
suspended for too many traffic infractions. I can either take the
ticket, which would be more expensive, and get recorded for another
infraction so soon after I got my license back, or I can just bribe
them and it goes off the record. I was still on probation then. This is
similar to the probationary driver system most countries have, ours is
two years, and if you accumulate too many over a short period of time,
you lose your license, which was what happened to me.

Heck, I even had an accident on the very first day I started
driving. :) I’m not the cautious type that goes slow, so I went to a
more reasonable speed and er…crashed into my own front gate pillar. I
got ticketed soon after that because I made the mistake of swerving
into the lane of a patrol car and cutting them off, so they had to
brake to avoid me. I reckon they weren’t too pleased about that. It
didn’t go unnoticed that I didn’t stop before coming out at the Stop
sign, and that was my first ticket. I got another one for going above
the speed limit soon after that and one for running a red light, and
that’s it. Three non-static traffic violations were all it took. My
driver’s license was revoked after that, and I had to write several
letters of appeal to get it back.

It took quite a while too, and I didn’t have a valid license while
driving for a couple of months. It’s not hard to get in back, I’ve
never heard of anyone having their appeal turned down, unless it was an
accident with fatalities or DUI/DWI which you have to be real careful
about while on probation. I did get several static parking tickets
after that but no other traffic related offenses on record (several off
record “fines” made payable to the officer, minor ones, except for the
time I had to bribe myself out of a DUI, but it was worth it). Chinese
New Year was also quite inauspicious, but amusing. I was stopped
several times in a two day period and had to bribe the police officers
(which was what they wanted, that’s why they come out full force during
certain holidays).

The funny thing is, I didn’t know I did anything in all three times
during the Lunar New Year. The first one was when I was stopped for
going through a No Entry sign and driving the wrong way down the road.
I remember arguing with the officers coz I didn’t know that they
changed the damn road configurations, and after a couple of exchanges,
my friends (went with Diana and Ting Chuan) told me that I had indeed
gone through a No Entry sign and has been driving down the wrong lane
during the last turning. I gave them RM 10 or RM 20, wasn’t sure.

Now, the worst bit is when I went through the same road, forgot the
road change and did the same mistake AND was stopped by the same team
again. “You lagi, kah?” (“You again?”), went one of the police. It was
funny in a stupid sort of way, driving down the same route you got
stopped for coz it was against traffic only a couple of hours ago.
That’s another RM 10 – 20 in bribes, it’s cheap since they don’t
usually stop you for such minor transgressions anyway, they just did it
coz they were there to tax the Chinese population. ;)

The second night wasn’t so funny though, coz it was in the middle of
the night (3 AM or 4 AM) and the police insinuated that I was somehow
involved with crime coz I was out at that hour and coz they still do
that old “tattoos = criminals” profiling thing. Probably coz it only
involves one constant, wouldn’t be an effort to remember that, I
imagine. ;) We could not agree on the bribe though. This was the
police, not traffic patrol, who are generally more pleasant to deal
with. He started hinting that he and his team could search my car and
drag us down for “suspicious behavior”, whatever the fuck that means,
if we couldn’t agree on the sum.

I remember he was asking for RM 350, a figure around that range
anyway. I knew they were not just doing regular road blocks – they had
an operation going on that night due to a homicide and a drug sting, as
I read in the papers the next day. He wanted that amount in exchange
for not giving me a ticket (No Entry again, damn signs, make them
bigger!) AND for not checking my car, which was why the price tag was
so high. This is a ridiculous amount to solicit for just going through
a No Entry and driving the wrong way down a deserted road.

I only had to use RM 200 to convince the police who stopped me
during a routine road block (a separate incident) that I was simply to
tired to walk a straight line, so no, you wouldn’t need to use the
breathalyzer, coz I’m perfectly sober. ;) They’re not very big on
getting DUI’s over here anyway, but I thought it was worth it, since
the officer knew I wasn’t sober, and I didn’t want him to start
thinking about what exactly it is that I was on when the breathalyzer
shows I haven’t been drinking.

The operations police team on that New Year’s night assumed I had
something to hide, so they imposed an uncharacteristically high bribe.
I told him that I didn’t have that much money, I only had a RM 5 note
and I showed him my wallet. I actually have several hundred dollars,
but wisely left all my money with my friend except for the RM 5 note
coz I could see that they were harassing the other people they stopped
– shining bright lights in their eyes and questioning them and other
miscellaneous bullshit.

He told me to ask my friend for more money, coz RM 5 is not going to
do it. This was just for a very minor traffic infraction, mind. This
pissed me off since it was starting to look a lot like they were
shaking me down so I just told them that my friend did not bring his
wallet, RM 5 is all I have, basically, take it or leave it. It’s not my
fault they have an operation which requires them to work through the
night, and although I don’t mind bribes (meaning I don’t have ethical
or moral stances against it, it’s good for both parties when it’s
willing), this one is more like extortion. A more senior officer heard
our exchange and came over, and after listening to the younger police,
told him to just take the RM 5 and waved us away.

That is the cheapest bribe I ever gave, and though I have no doubt
that he wouldn’t have bothered to take us in, he would have held us up
(and for quite some time too, know some people who were also stopped by
this block sitting by the road, and they told me they’ve been there for
nearly two hours!) by interrogating us and searching the car, just to
be an asshole, like some other officers were doing with the other
people who were stopped. This is not as blatant as one of my ex gf’s
experience where all the five people in the car were shaken down for
ALL their money except RM 20 which they insisted they needed for
petrol. It was a DUI charge, driver was drunk, but this was in KL, so
the police bribe, er…extortion would be a better word, totaled more
than RM 1,000 to let the guy off.

711 parking ticket
7-Eleven parking ticket

Anyway, I’ve not had problems with traffic police, all the ones I’ve
the misfortune of encountering were always polite. Back to the 7-Eleven
parking ticket, I had expected him to loaf around for a while, and just
as I opened the 7-Eleven door to exit, the traffic patrol got back on
his motorbike and promptly drove off! I nearly dropped my bag of
groceries in shock. I felt a wave of unfamiliarity blow over me and I
looked around, totally disoriented. Where am I? I felt lost and totally
confused! Can this be Malaysia? It looks the same, it feels the
same…but yet, it’s not. Did some infernal forces transfer me to
another Malaysia in a parallel universe, one where the corruption index
was lower?

711 parking block
Mine falls under Causing unnecessary obstruction of traffic.

Such businesslike procedures, it seemed that he just alighted and
wrote a parking ticket, put that under my wipers and promptly left…it
was amazing. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to him. I would have
preferred paying him. Like I said, this manifestation of corruption
doesn’t bother me if it works out for both parties, its just commerce.
I don’t have time to go around paying traffic tickets. Now that it’s
been issued, I would have to fill out the details and submit it, which
I don’t have time for.

711 saman list
The list of traffic rules.

It seems that I had violated Rule #2 in the List of Offences at the
back. It’s the one for “Causing unnecessary obstruction of traffic”.
Well, no shit, Sherlock. I disagree though, in my defense, there
was…er, one completely free lane left after my vehicle occupied the
other one. :p It wasn’t like I was going for an extended Sabbatical,
just getting a couple of items, will be out of the way in minutes. I
thought it would go better under another category, so I did just that.
;)

711 me kopi o
I added in another rule

I noticed they didn’t have entries from Rule #14 onwards, even
though there’s space for six more. I presume this is to give the
officer more discretion in issuing out parking tickets. Has anyone got
a “Rule #15 – Inane parking ticket to reach my quota.”? I crossed out
his Rule #2 and replaced it with my own Rule #15, which says “Tidak
sempat bagi Kopi O” (Did not get the chance to bribe the officer). It
would have been funny if I sent that one in.

711 parking ticket back
This are the added rules. The first one goes Rule #15 Did not get the chance to bribe the officer.

However, I’m not going to pay this parking ticket. I used the
parking ticket as scrap paper, since I don’t seem to have any paper and
I wouldn’t have any pens either if it weren’t for the expo, where
people were giving me pens left and right. :)

711 saman scrap

I did not go to 7-Eleven for their Any purchase on a single receipt gets a FREE parking ticket promotion, anyway.

It’ll be easier to pay when the vehicle registration gets into the
JPJ blacklist. Besides, this parking ticket would be considered
invalid, with all my scribbling on it. ;)

Like, I said…I was appalled. I sure hope it’s an isolated incident
meant for reaching his quotas. The noticeably improved efficiency! The
behavioral change, gone is the norm of lingering around to see if the
owner turns up anytime soon. It totally breaks the status quo. It’s too
much to absorb in one day. ;)

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