New Law to Limit Power of Malaysia’s RELA
19 April 2012 – KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is set to introduce a new law aimed at curtailing the power of Rela, the controversial volunteer squad that has long been accused of human rights violations against undocumented migrants in the country.
Tabled for the first reading in the Parliament on Tuesday, Malaysia Volunteer Corps (Rela) Bill 2012, if passed will strip Rela members of the power to detain or arrest any persons, including migrant workers.
The newly- tabled bill also forbid all Rela members to carry fire arms, only allowing them to assist any security force upon request by the respective authorities.
The bill also states the main duty of Rela is to control and divert motor vehicles. They will also assist in protecting buildings, installations or other properties belonging to the federal or state government.
Rela was formed in 1972 as a paramilitary unit under the now repealed Emergency Ordinance. Rela members, however, have been routinely accused of rights violations, including extortion and physical violence against migrant workers and refugees living in Malaysia.
Meanwhile Malaysian Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said, the newly-tabled bill would `empower’ Rela members in more relevant ways despite taking away their power to detain, arrest or carry firearms.
“Training for members is now compulsory and employers of those called up for training not exceeding 10 days are required to grant leave.”
“Malaysia has an institutionalised volunteer movement, an asset that we should not take for granted… I want to take the bigger approach and have Rela be more professional, more progressive, more a part of the overall transformation agenda,” the Home Minister said.
Reporting by Thomas Chong