Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had tough words for criminal gangs but the home minister appears to have a soft spot for the Tiga Line underworld group, calling them his friends and urging them to do what they needed to do.
Zahid had made these remarks at an event in Malacca last Friday and then threatened journalists present that he would close down their newspapers if they reported his statements.
However, Malaysiakini has obtained a 20-minute recording of the speech in which he claimed to be speaking to Umno delegates in what seemed like a government function.
The event at the Malacca International Trade Centre (MITC) in Ayer Keroh began innocently enough when the home minister declared the cops to be colour blind, pointing out that they had searched 178,217 Malays, 77,104 Chinese, 73,505 Indians and 51,517 other races in a crackdown against the underworld.
Of this, 14,511 were found to be secret society members - 6,171 Malays, 1,701 Chinese, 3,685 Indians and 2,954 other races.
But from here on was a strange twist, as the home minister zoomed in on Tiga Line and declared that they really weren’t thugs and were in fact some form of benevolent gangsters that only turned up at festivities.
‘Tiga Line not thugs’
"The 6,171 Malays, they are not real thugs (samseng), they were Pekida members and were part of the Tiga Line group, gang 30, gang 7 - these are festivities (kenduri-kendara) gangsters…
“I tell our Tiga Line friends, do what should be done,” he said to loud cheers from the room.
Tiga Line is among a list of 47 secret societies released by the Home Ministry in August and declared unlawful.
He then continued to refer to Tiga Line on a first person basis, stating: “We are not evil, I know, I have checked. We gather during festivities with our siblings, so gather when there are projects, nevermind”.
“I see here, the candidates here, all four of them are Tiga Line,” he laughingly said.
Zahid had in his speech repeatedly referred to Umno supreme council candidate Shahidan Kassim, who was also present, as the “biggest Tiga Line gangster” in a joking manner.
‘Malays the biggest victims’
After the apparent out-of-place moment for the home minister, he returned to his tough talk against criminals, saying that he had launched the crackdown against the underworld as he felt insulted by the daily street shootings.
The home minister also appeared to take a racial stance on crime, declaring that Malays were the usual victims.
"The largest drug dealers are Chinese, the smaller ones are Indians and the users are Malays.
"In internet gambling, the bosses are Chinese, operators are Indians and patrons are Malays…
“Therefore the victims are Malays,” he said, adding that he is home minister due to Malay support that made him Umno vice president.
The event where he spoke was entitled ‘Security briefing ceremony with community leaders’ and the backdrop bore the federal and Malacca government emblems.
While Zahid appeared to be aware of journalists’ presence at the event as he told them to omit some of his words midway through his speech, the home minister backtracked towards the end and declared it a closed door event.
Journalists there were unceremoniously asked to leave as the room shouted for them to get out and were later reportedly told by organisers that the incident was a “misunderstanding”.
Ayer Keroh state assemblyperson Khoo Poay Tiong who furnished Malaysiakini with a copy of the recording had rubbished assertions that the event was closed door, claiming that the media sitting was prepared but journalists were suddenly threatened and asked to leave at the end.