The tahfiz school blaze that ended with the tragic deaths of 23 people and the role of seven youths, aged between 12 and 18, in the alleged arson has again brought to the fore the wayward behaviour of some sections of the society. Pix by Eizairi Shamsudin

THE tahfiz school blaze that ended with the tragic deaths of 23 people and the role of seven youths, aged between 12 and 18, in the alleged arson has again brought to the fore the wayward behaviour of some sections of the society. The story is typical. Parents have little or no time for the child. The child mixes with bad hats and is up to no good. Drug abuse, child sex and gangsterism are the unwelcome result. We can see this play out from KLCC to Datuk Keramat as a sunrise-to-sunset culture. This scene is replicated elsewhere in the country, too, from Kangar to Kota Tinggi.

Rempit, with or without wheels, are a national menace and we must treat them as such. Some say we should be magnanimous to these teenagers with conduct disorder. Turning into lay psychologists, these generous lot says our attitude to the miscreants is the real problem. So, we changed our attitude towards them and allowed the teenagers into our race tracks to turn stuntmen on nights they chose to display their rage. The alleged arson of the tahfiz school and numerous cases of crime throughout the country committed by these teenage miscreants have not abated. On the contrary, teenage crimes from this section of society is spiralling. It is a national issue and it is time we put a stop to it. The “softly-softly” approach is not working, and possibly never will.

Perhaps, it is an opportune time to emplace laws that will make parents responsible for the crimes of their children. Malaysia will not be the first country to implement such a law. The United States has a legislation that is termed Parental Responsibility Law, which holds parents liable for the crime of their children. Almost all the states in the US have such a law, which holds parents or legal guardians liable for a whole series of crimes, from property damage to shoplifting. The tahfiz tragedy may fit into the law the state of California has on its statute book, which holds parents or guardians liable for any “willful misconduct causing injury, death or property damage” by a minor under 18 years old. Medical expenses expended to treat injuries resulting from the wilful misconduct are also recoverable.

Malaysia doesn’t need to adopt the American Parental Responsibility Law word-for-word. Using parental responsibility as a driving principle, our parliamentary draftsmen can use their ingenuity to weave local elements into a piece of legislation that is both workable and effective. Of course, having the law alone is not enough; it must be enforced to weed out the menace that it was drafted to target in the first place. Parental responsibility law is for the good of all. The country will be rid of a plague that is a threat to decent society. Parents will at least take responsibility in grooming their children, though under the threat of law. As for the teenagers, they will learn the harsh lesson that crime doesn’t pay.

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