Juvenile delinquency, a phrase hitherto associated with America and the rest of the West, is making its presence felt in Malaysia. “Throughout the nation, a total of 11 cases involving juvenile delinquents were recorded daily in 1993. The following year, the figure rose to 12 cases daily”, a tabloid which is distributed free in the Klang Valley (Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and the suburbs) reported.
Extrapolating imaginatively from current figures, the paper said, it is predicted that by the year 2000, there will be almost 20 cases a day involving juvenile delinquents or 7,300 cases a year. This is fewer compared to in the US, but analysts say this is indeed a reason to worry for a small nation like Malaysia.
As expected, the figures in urban areas are exceedingly higher than those in the rural areas. Most of the offences were crimes relating to property, individuals, sex, gambling and traffic offences which are incorporated in the country’s Juvenile Act (1947).
The definition of a juvenile is someone who is below 18 years old. Statistics from the Social Welfare Department reveal that 668 cases were recorded in 1993 in the country’s most industrialized state, Selangor. This figure rose to 986 cases in 1994. Meanwhile, 698 cases were recorded in the capital Kuala Lumpur in 1993 with a slight drop to 668 cases in 1994.
The Social and Welfare Department’s director of research and planning attributes this trend to peer group pressure which is the most frequent reason behind juvenile delinquency. One ray of hope is that the success rate of rehabilitating juvenile delinquents currently stands at “more than 75 per cent.”
Lack of parental control is said to be the main contributing factor. The current economic boom gives both parents opportunity to work and earn good money outside, leaving children to mend for themselves or in the care of their maids.
The other negative influence on the children is the TV. Since the Malaysian people, both educated and half educated, have poor reading habit, television remains their main pre-occupation. According to a survey carried out not long ago by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, the Government-owned largest publication house in Malaysia, an average Malaysian seriously reads less than one page anually. The survey also found that serious books and novels are the least read materials in contrast to entertainment, gossip and smut magazines which are widely available.
But the government still wants more TV channels! Malaysia currently has four public channels. Almost all of them are entertainment- oriented, unlike some public television channels in the West which concentrate on documentaries, news and other education-based programmes. The most recent addition is the subscription-based Mega- TV which offers five round-the-clock channels. With the recent launch of Malaysia’s first satellite Measat, plans are also afoot to feed Malaysia’s hungry audience with 20 more channels.
Is Malaysia having a good time at the expense of its future generation?
Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996