RELA, or Ikatan Relawan Rakyat, is the People’s Volunteer Corps that operates under Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry. It was created in 1972. It’s members are Malaysian citizens who volunteer to serve, and they have the power to carry firearms, arrest individuals, and enter premises without permits.
What is the role of Rela?
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Rela’s role is to
- Act as a ‘home guard’, to maintain security and peace before take over by security forces.
- Safeguard defense targets, transfer and protect civilian to a safe place.
- Act as the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of the government, to collect information for enforcement units, and patrolrespective districts for crime prevention.
Rela has been empowered to catch undocumented migrants since 2005.
Currently, there are 480,023 members of Rela. Any Malaysian citizen can join – there are no educational or physical requirements, and there are no background or criminal checks on those who join. New members attend 3 – 14 days of training.
Which acts & regulations empower Rela?*
• Emergency (Essential Powers) Act, 1964
• Essential (Pasokan Kawalan) Regulations, 1966
• Essential (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat)(Amendment) Regulation 2005
Excerpts from Essential (Pasokan Kawalan) Regulations, 1966
Regulation 10. Powers of members of Pasokan Kawalan. A member of the Pasokan Kawalan shall have the following powers-
(a) when authorised to do so by the competent authority, to carry arms, including firearms, and use the same for the performance of his duties;
(b) without derogating from his powers and duties under any other written law, to arrest without a warrant a terrorist or any person whom he has reasonable cause to believe to be a terrorist and to immediately conduct such terrorist or person to the nearest police station or police officicer or a member of the security forces.
Excerpts from Essential (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat)(Amendment) Regulations, 2005
4A. (1) The competent authority shall have the powers provided under these
Regulations and shall include the following powers:
(a) to carry arms, including firearms and ammunition for use, and use the same for the performance of its duties;
(b) where it has reasonable belief that any person is a terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or an occupier, to stop the person in order to make all such inquiries or to require the production of all such documents or other things as the competent authority may consider necessary;
(c) may arrest without warrant any person who when stopped under paragraph (b): (i) refuses or fails to comply with any reasonable requirement made to him by the competent authority; (ii) refuses to answer any question that may be lawfully put to him by the competent authority in the exerciseof its power; (iii) makes any statement or produces any identification document which the competent authority knows or has reason to believe to be false; or (iv) refuses or fails to produce identification documents or things that may lawfully be required by the competent authority.
(2) Any terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or occupier arrested by the competent authority under this regulation shall, unless there is a submission to the custody by word or action, be handcuffed by the competent authority and shall be handed over to the nearest police
4B. (1) The competent authority may without a warrant and with or without assistance:
(a) enter and search any premises; or
(b) stop and search any vessel, vehicle or person, whether in a public place or not, if it has reason to believe that any evidence of the commission of an offence against these Regulations is likely to be found on such premises or person or in such vessel or vehicle, and may seize any evidence so found.
4C. The powers vested in the competent authority under regulations 4A and 4B may, subject to such limitations as may be imposed by the competent authority, be exercised by any member of the Ikatan Relawan Rakyat as may be authorised in writing in that behalf by the competent authority.
Reported RELA Incidents*
4 August, 2007 Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia
During the Ops Tegas in Selayang and Gombak, about 100 Myanmar refugees who are registered with UNHCR, consisting of men, women, pregnant women and children were arrested by Immigration department and Rela
30 May, 2007 Malaysiakini
Food court operator Chen Yau Choy sued Rela for alleged abuse of power and corruption. Chen claimed that he was illegally detained during the ordeal
14 May, 2007 Malaysiakini
7 plain clothed Rela personnel ‘kidnapped’ an Indian film producer attached to a German firm for not having valid documents. The Rela personnel allegedly uttered the derogatory remarks “Come, come Bangla”.
22 April, 2007 Malaysiakini
10 Rela personnel allegedly robbed 20 Indonesians of their cash and valuables in Ipoh. Accoding to police, two of the 10 had previous convictions.
31 March, 2007 Malaysiakini
Mechanic Tan Keng Sneah from Penang lodged a police report claiming that he was assaulted with a walkie-talkie by a Rela personnel.
22 January, 2007 Malaysiakini
Police revealed that a Rela personnel involved in relief work in flood stricken Johor allegedly molested a girl, 18, while escorting her to a hospital.
28 December, 2006 Malaysiakini
6 foreign workers with valid documents were detained by Rela personnel and brought to a police station by Rela personnel who broke into their chalet.
4 December, 2006 The Star
Management staff of the five factories from klang alleged that a team of 30 to 40 Rela members had detained 64 foreign workers, assaulted others and stole their cash and valuables during raids.
14 October, 2006 China press
Group of rela carried raids at Tmn Orkid, cheras at 4am, they broke the padlock and kick door in, residents claimed “their attitude is worser than rogue.” One of the residents lodged a police report for loss of RM3756.30 which kept in bookshelf after the raid.
30 July, 2006 Komas, NOHD
The Aceh Refugee village of Kampung Tengah, Sepang was raided and torched by about 100 Rela personal. Rela members were taking away the villagers belongings, bags, TVs, DVD players, hand phone, rice and two generators.
13 May, 2006 Suaram
1000 RELA members were present without the company of police force or immigration officers in Selayang. RELA members charged into the migrant workers’ houses by breaking their padlocks and wooden doors. Some of them even entered the migrants’ houses by breaking the ceilings. People were assaulted to severe injury. Migrant workers with proper document, asylum seekers with UNHCR letters and heavily pregnant ladies were arrested.
28 February, 2006 Suaram
RELA personnel brutalizing 61 Indian nationals who were seeking help from the Indian High Commission. According to a news report (Malay Mail, 7 March 2006), victims claimed that the RELA started kicking and punching them when they arrived. One man claimed that he was badly beaten by RELA members, resulting bone fractures in both his arms.
11 February, 2006 Suaram
RELA carried out a raid in the open market at Selayang. According to eye-witnesses, those migrant workers caught were beaten up by the RELA personnel and treated like cattle. According to the BBC report, five died while trying to flee the raid. Five bodies were found in a small lake near the open market in Selayang Baru.
*Text from pamphlet of the Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH