You might have read this weird news by now because it’s made front page news on a lot of newspapers on 21 July. Ever heard of Zawara Coffee? It’s a local coffee cafe chain. Anyway, a Zawara food truck driving around Cyberjaya scared the public so much that they called the cops! So the cops stopped the truck and arrested two guys inside (though they’re now released on police bail).
HUH? Why arrest two guys in a food truck? Errr, you need to see the truck to know why…
Errr ok, so the truck looks like an army truck. So?
Why arrest people for driving a badass mothatrucking food truck?
It really scared people la, even though the company gave a warning heads-up on Facebook:
But that’s not the point, it wasn’t the “scaring” of people that got them arrested. According to the cops, the operator is being investigated under Section 170 of the Penal Code for impersonating a civil servant. The punishment is a jail term of up to two years, or fine, or both.
The ‘military truck’ has grey camouflage paintwork on its body – some bits of which are pictures of food Zawara serves, like burgers, churros, and hotdogs (look real closely). And two ‘rocket launchers’ on its roof – which are actually rockets made of fiberglass. The truck is a UK-manufactured Pinzgauer vehicle, but it’s a retired vehicle from the Armed Forces and its registration had been changed to civilian ownership.
“It is not illegal to buy such vehicles as they have been disposed off by the army. Some just buy it as a personal collection. But modifying the vehicle, including installing ‘rockets’ to look like a real military unit is an offence.” – Sepang Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Abdul Aziz Ali, The Malay Mail
It was supposed to be a business gimmick. Zawara CEO Kamarul Ariff bought the truck with the help of a friend from a seller in Sungai Petani, Kedah. He paid RM55,000 for it and spent RM20,000 on modifications.
“The truck was inspected by Puspakom and the Road Transport Department (RTD) but that was before we modified it.” – Kamarul, The Malay Mail Online
Actually, got so many cases of people impersonating civil servants!
Some of them are hilarious and some of them shocking!
1. Posing as military officers
In 2000, 15 men posing as high-ranking military officers actually managed to raid two military depots, stealing more than 100 weapons and thousands of ammunition. The theft embarrassed real officials in KL and it ended with 5-day standoff between two parties where the posers had also taken some fruit farmers hostage. In the end it was revealed that Al-Maunah was the mastermind behind the whole thing.
2. Posing as Election Commission officers
Two men working for Nurul Izzah going door to door for a voter survey got arrested over allegation that they were impersonating EC officers. “I got a call in Parliment about the incident. Impersonating as government officers? What a load of rubbish! I gave them the authority [to act on my behalf] and they have the letters. Umno has been doing this work and we never interfered. This is intimidation! It’s ridiculous!” said Nurul Izzah.
3. Posing as traffic police
A koay teow seller and bodyguard were caught pretending to be traffic policemen to give VIPs and rich people outrider services. The suspects were wearing the yellow and blue jackets like the traffic police when they were arrested, and even had high-powered motorcycles, sirens and outrider outfits.
4. Posing as Minister???
Wahh this one also can?! But Deputy Finance Minister Chua Tee Yong’s mother got a call from a guy pretending to be a ‘Inspector Siful’, saying that her son was in a lockup for possessing drugs. He then called the mother again pretending to be the ‘Deputy Finance Minister’ and cried over phone, pleading for help. Good thing she wasn’t fooled and knew her son was at a ministry meeting.
In a separate incident, Sarawak’s real Minister, Tan Sri Dr. James Masing was stopped by immigration flers in Sabah coz they thought he was an imposter pretending to be a Minister (how…awkward). And we found other cases where people posed as immigration officer and even a Deputy Public Prosecutor.
But the most common of them all *drum roll* people pretending to be COPS!!
Seriously, our search for cases of impersonation showed A LOT of people had pretended to be cops! Dunno, maybe coz, cops are cool? Unfortunately we couldn’t find statistics of how many cases of Malaysians have been caught impersonating cops, but we can agree that it’s pretty rampant la. So much so that The Star once wrote that these fakers are giving PDRM a bad name. (For cases, read here, here and here.)
Another one was a 30-year-old guy pretending to be a cop and trying to enter Bukit Aman (mau cari maut ke?) He didn’t even make it past the entry gate coz he couldn’t produce identification. So, he got fined RM2,500 by the court, no jail sentence. Just a RM2,500 fine without jail time sounds somewhat lenient for impersonating a civil servant, would you say?
However, some of the cases we’ve mentioned show that ANOTHER law could be applied to add extra punishment for people pretending to be police, on top of Section 170 of the Penal Code. That would be Section 89(a) of the Police Act 1967.
This law is more long-winded than Sect 170 – basically anyone who is not a police officer cannot be found with any item that only police are allowed to have (ie. uniform, badges, medals, police cars & motorcycles). People are also not allowed to manufacture or sell these things. ONLY exception is for actors wearing it for stage or show. The punishment for this is a jail term not more than six months, or fine not more than RM500, or both.
In our previous article, we wrote about how easy it was to buy police uniforms, and shockingly, from places that sell REAL cops the REAL stuff s’more! Often the modus operandi is to cheat unsuspecting people of money. One super successful conman managed to bluff 49 families in five states to bank in RM373,750 into his account, by promising to release their relatives detained for drug offences.
If an impersonator has a gun to make his ‘look’ more convincing, lagi kantoi la. The Arms Act (1960) and Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act (1971) have significantly heavier punishments – 14 years of jail and six strokes of whipping if a person own a gun unlawfully, lifetime of jail and six strokes of whipping if a person flashes a gun, and DEATH penalty if a person shoots a gun.
What should you do if you see someone pretending to be a civil servant?
Call Ghostbusters! Kidding. CALL THE COPS. Or report this suspicious person to the respective office or department they claim to be from. “Everyone has the right to ask a policeman to show his authority card. Call us immediately if you don’t get it,” informed KL Police Chief Commissioner Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa.
Although we believe Zawara’s intention wasn’t to impersonate the military and their truck is totally badass, the public who tipped off the police did the right thing. It could have caused major panic cos the truck was just too badass for its own good. Anyway, Zawara’s CEO Kamarul said they will be repainting it to their corporate colours – black and purple, and replacing the ‘rocket launchers’ with a giant coffee cup.
So now you know…it is an offence to pose as a civil servant in Malaysia. Good for your knowledge oso la, if you wanna wear costume for a Halloween party, try not to look too convincing. (Or go as a Stormtrooper. A Stormtrooper is not a Malaysian civil servant, we checked). No matter how awesome the Best Costume prizes are, it ain’t worth it, man.
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