THE phenomenon of the loan shark and its attendant problems are not new in Malaysia. However, the situation has now deteriorated to truly intolerable levels, as victims are not only harassed and threatened but also kidnapped and abused.

The public has a right to know what is being done to rectify the situation, since just about anyone’s friends, family members, relatives or colleagues can be victimised.

Loan sharks have even been known to target “wrong” people when they intimidate individuals through mistaken identities.

The people expect and deserve appropriate laws to be passed for public protection. After that, the authorities are responsible for the effective enforcement of those laws.

Although the official stand is that action is being taken to curb the menace, there is a simple way for the public to know if enough is being done. If there continue to be hapless victims at the mercy of loan sharks, then the authorities have not been doing enough.

How can public officials know if the steps being taken are adequate? One way to determine that is to begin with the commitment that the punishment must fit the crime.

As the severity of sadistic “Ah Long” activity escalates, so must legal provisions and penalties. Keep raising the levels of judicial deterrence and retribution until it becomes no longer profitable or sensible for loan sharks to remain in business.

Society deserves a zero-tolerance approach to these criminal syndicates, so let there be the requisite political will for the job.

What can possibly hamper the introduction of tougher laws, more stringent enforcement and heavier penalties when the country awaits all these?

It might be said that the public also needs to be educated and dissuaded from involvement with loan sharks, although anyone in dire financial straits might still be tempted.

A comprehensive solution would need to tackle both the demand and supply ends of the activity for more assured results.

By their very own actions, “Ah Longs” have made their trade a public nuisance, a criminal activity and a security threat.

The rest of society cannot afford to be lax to see what have now become serious crimes continue, in whichever form and to whatever extent.

Source: The Star Online