Shootings linked to gangs

Mr Veerappan’s body. He was shot dead at a traffic light in Penang on Thursday.

MALAYSIA - The spate of shootings in Selangor, Penang and other states in Malaysia could be linked to gangs fighting for control of their territories. The gangs' activities include drug trade and vice.

A source told The Star that the police are probing several gangs involved in the drug trade in Negeri Sembilan and Port Dickson.

"They are also investigating some people who used to live from hand to mouth but are now living lavish lifestyles," the source was quoted as saying.

He said that several new gangs had emerged in recent years, apart from Gang 18 and Gang 36, which had been around since the 1970s.

The source said members of both gangs had shown their "might" by bringing traffic to a halt during the funeral processions of their leaders and, on occasion, had even replaced the registration plates of their vehicles with their gang numbers, in a blatant show of strength.

He said: "About two years ago, traffic was brought to a standstill for several minutes during the funeral procession of one gang leader.

"Besides marking respect for their leaders, such displays also signify a show of power and warning to other gangs to stay away from the area."

Police sources told The Star that they believe a gangland war has spilled into the open and the gang leaders have become bolder in fighting for territories, now that many former Emergency Ordinance detainees have been released.

The sources, who were not named, said that the former detainees want to reclaim their old neighbourhoods and eliminate those who had taken over their activities, especially the highly lucrative distribution of drugs.

Describing several of the shootings as "drug fire", the sources said that the shootings were becoming more rampant.

Criminologist Associate Professor Dr P Sundramoorthy said the shootings could be seen as an eruption of an all-out gang war.

He said although police had yet to determine the link, he said that the shootings were consistent with cases in other countries like Mexico and Colombia, which faced drug-gang related violence.

He told The Star: "I have never seen as many shootings since the communist insurgency 40 years ago. Although the perpetrators then were a terrorist group compared to criminals now, it is still a major concern."

In general, Dr Sundramoorthy said, gang leaders had become bolder with the absence of preventive laws.

"It has become very complex to investigate and prosecute," he said.

Meanwhile, about 500 people attended the funeral of Mr K. Veerappan, 37, who was gunned down at a traffic light in George Town, Penang, on Thursday.

Despite his alleged links to Gang 36, the funeral was seen as rather tame compared with gangland standards. The procession was led by a group of motorcyclists, while a host of cars followed the hearse.

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