First of all, hitting the road during this crucial Super MCO (a.k.a Lockdown, FMCO) period isn’t something we necessarily recommend doing, especially if the reasons falls outside the “getting essentials” bubble.
At the time of writing, there have been over 1,000 roadblocks or Sekatan Jalan Raya (which translates directly back to “stuck road”, funnily enough) set up by the authorities to ensure that Malaysians not venture too far afield to curb the spread of the COVID-19. This is done through the use of both static roadblocks and ones that shift locations throughout the day.
However, now that they’re a necessary, if inconvenient, part of our lives, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll come across one. While the queuing is a no-brainer, many of us are not familiar with the dynamics that occur between the police and ourselves. Understanding this might seem trivial, but it certainly is worth knowing if only to avoid any anxiety and help give us a wider perspective.
At A Roadblock: The Basics
Assuming you’ve done nothing wrong, or nothing that you’re aware of, it’s important to stay calm. Being rude, aggressive, or acting rashly will only escalate the situation. Getting caught up in a roadblock usually won’t take up much time and, even if it does, saying so is a totally acceptable excuse for not being on time.
With the ‘10km radius’ rule in effect, it’s also worth keeping a piece of documentation that can prove your current residence (and point of travel origin) if your address does not match that of your government-issued cards. It’s also good practice to have your driver’s license and IC within quick reach, or at least not buried too deeply inside your wallet.
If the sun is down or lighting is overly dim, have your interior light on before you pull up for a one-on-one with the officer. It’ll help you with identifying items within your car and it’s a subtle signifier that you’re being cooperative and have nothing to hide.
Special mention for FMCO: During this period, because the majority of JPJ operations have been paused, it is permissible to present a recently expired driving license or be driving a vehicle with a recently expired road tax as the facilities for their renewal are temporarily not accessible.
At A Roadblock: Your Rights
Now comes the part that most Malaysians are quite hazy on. We’ve been predisposed to think that the police have full authority over what occurs at these roadblocks.
Though, as citizens, we are obligated to lend our cooperation and truthfully answer their questions, there are lines that we can choose to not cross (figuratively speaking).
A roadblock is meant to be an efficient and streamlined operation, so the police officer will be asking you a specific series of questions related to yourself, your vehicle, your destination, and your point of origin.
You are no longer legally required to divulge additional information that deviates from this. Should that happen, ask for clarification as further questioning is only a step taken when a person is being placed under arrest - quite a rare occasion at a roadblock.
While you may be asked to voluntarily empty your pockets and/or bags, the officer also has no right to search your pockets, bags, or belongings themselves unless you are being explicitly placed under arrest.
Am I Under Arrest?
If you are not under arrest, you have the right of refusal, and are under no obligation to answer more detailed questions or follow the officer to a police station (or anywhere else).
If the officer does answer in the affirmative - meaning you are under arrest - do not attempt to resist. However, even here, there are some rights you can exercise.
As you cannot be placed under arrest without being informed as to why, you can ask the officer(s) to furnish you with the details/reasoning behind it.
Any PDRM officer will have his or her name printed on their uniform, so take note of that if you need to. Furthermore, an officer will also have their badge or ID number clearly displayed as well.
It’s also within your rights to verbally ask for these details at any point during the roadblock (or any other interaction), which could come in handy if you need to recount any details in a report and/or complaint.
Should the officer present their authority card at any time, it might be helpful to take note of the additional details presented here. Apart from their aforementioned name and ID number, observe the card’s colour: white is for reserve officers, yellow for officers ranked below Inspector, blue for those ranked Inspector or above.
If you are following the necessary health-related SOPs and are otherwise a law-abiding citizen, going through a roadblock is a non-issue. At most, it’s a short-term inconvenience on our weekly ‘bread run’.
Besides suspicious activity, it’s extremely rare that the police will be presenting you with any questions besides your origin and destination. Just have the necessary documents and identification handy and you’ll be on your way again in no time. Stay safe and stay healthy!
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