Malaysians renew calls for sex offender registry

Rapist's return after time in Canada jail raises concerns but police say they will monitor him

Malaysians have renewed calls for a sex offender registry as a convicted rapist is set to return to the country after serving 24 years in a Canadian prison.

The proposal was first mooted in 2007, after the brutal rape and murder of eight-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, but efforts have stalled since.

Mr Selva Kumar Subbiah, 56, was convicted in 1992 of 19 counts of sexual assault, 28 counts of administering a drug or noxious substance to his victims, 10 counts of various kinds of assault and a dozen other charges, including extortion.

His impending return this Sunday has sparked concern amongcivil society groups that the authorities are not taking concrete action quickly enough.

"Whenever there's a news flash, you'd get the politically correct response. But the distance between political speak and political will is far," said Ms Ivy Josiah, a veteran women's rights activist.

In response, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told The Sun daily yesterday the government delayed setting up a national registry to track convicted sex offenders out of concern raised by the Attorney-General's Chambers that it may infringe on individual privacy.

He added the government was also obliged to defend the rights of convicted sexual offenders and protect them from vigilantes.

Police have said they will monitor Mr Selva's movements, although no other action can be taken since he has served his sentence.

"We have our ways when it comes to people involved in such crimes," police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said. "We will monitor him based on his criminal records and through the existing jurisdiction and authority we have."

Datuk Seri Nur Jazlan said the authorities lackresources to monitor Mr Selva on a daily basis, but having his name on the police watch list enables them to easily conduct investigations if he commits a crime.

Police will also record Mr Selva's statement on his return, and are looking into recruiting community groups to monitor him.

These responses, however, have not assured the public.

"So far, the government's responses appear to be knee-jerk reactions to issues in the media with an international 'flavour' to it," said Ms Goh Siu Lin, president of the Association of Women Lawyers.

Ms Josiah also said more transparency is needed to inform the public of police monitoring measures.

Women's Aid Organisation urged the police to ensure safetywill not be compromised and to implement a tracking mechanism that would prevent offenders from repeating criminal activities upon release.

Another group, Tenaganita, warned of the risks in allowing convicted rapists to mingle freely in public after serving time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysians renew calls for sex offender registry'. Print Edition | Subscribe