MEMBERS of the public should immediately lodge a report to relevant authorities if they come across any cases of impersonation of Syariah enforcement officials, said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) yesterday.
“If there are reports of such cases to us, we will investigate, because it is a crime to impersonate enforcement officers,” said the MoRA spokesperson.
The public can also provide any relevant information to nearby police stations or call the 993 police hotline.
Moreover, the public is also encouraged to report any criminal activities or frauds so that the police can carry out the necessary investigations, said the police spokesperson.
“Anyone, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims should not be afraid to lodge a report if they see that what befalls them is a crime,” said the spokesperson. “The police will always welcome any reports they can provide. Impersonating enforcement officials (itself) is a crime.”
There have been talks of a few cases of impersonation but the police have not received any complaint by victims of extortion.
The offence of impersonating a Syariah enforcement officer was brought up during one of the many briefings to promote the understanding of the Syariah criminal law.
An Indonesian hairdresser by the name of Tuti told The Brunei Times that she was forced to pay $300 to impersonators for an alleged crime of not wearing a tudong (veil).
The incident happened prior to the start of enforcement of the new code and Tuti said she paid up because was threatened to be deported if she did not.
The Brunei Times however, could not independently verify this incident as the police spokesperson said they had yet to receive any reports of impersonations.
A staff member of The Brunei Times had witnessed a case where two persons, a middle-aged woman and a young man claiming to be Syariah enforcement officials, were extorting a fine of $300 from a non-Muslim old Chinese man a few weeks ago.
The man was fined for an alleged crime of wearing “indecent” attire as he was wearing short pants in one of the commercial centres in the country.
The Brunei Times staff member approached the group and demanded the warrant card for identification purposes, to which the alleged “enforcement officials” responded saying that the receipt book they held was enough proof of identification.
The Brunei Times continued asking for identity cards and the impersonators later resorted to verbal abuse.
Another person arrived at the scene and revealed The Brunei Times staff member’s identity. Upon hearing this, the “enforcers” immediately ran away.
It was previously reported in the paper that religious enforcement officers are not authorised to fine offenders on the spot.
Cases must first be investigated to decide whether an offence has been committed.
Officers can be identified by their uniformed dark blue vests from the MoRA and a warrant card that must be presented when asked.
The MoRA spokesperson said that the public should not be confused with the enforcement unit of the Anti-Tobacco Act, who are authorised to impose a fine to smokers on the spot.
The Brunei Times
Friday, May 2, 2014