No, Rela, I didn’t sign up to be a member and neither did many other Malaysians

In 2009, Devanei Kandasamy left Malaysia for Europe. Since then, she has only made the occasional trips to Malaysia to meet up with her family and friends.

Last night, the 39-year-old actuarist based in Liege, Belgium, got a rude shock when she learnt that she had been “signed up” as a member of the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela). And she had apparently been with the uniformed body since 2011.

“I’m angry, to be honest,” Devanei told Twentytwo13 late last night.

“In Europe, there are so many laws to protect personal data. Clearly, that’s not the case in Malaysia as my personal details have been misused. This is identity theft.

“I’ve been in Europe since 2009. So why on earth would I sign up to be a Rela member? You don’t expect me to fly down to Malaysia each time I’m called for duty, do you?”

Devanei is eager to take this up with the authorities as she fears she could be a victim of identity theft, making it difficult for her to cross borders.

“I read the Twentytwo13 article and sent it over to a group of Malaysians based in Belgium to see if any of them have also fallen victim to this. I don’t want to be stopped by Immigration when I return to Malaysia or when I travel anywhere due to identity theft.”

Devanei isn’t the only one who had fallen victim to this data breach.

I was also listed as a Rela member since 2011 – despite not having signed up with the uniformed body. I share Devanei’s concerns, and they mirror the views of many other Malaysians who are outraged over what is seen as a massive personal data breach.

And this is where the authorities must investigate, for this has sparked a long list of questions, which include the possibility of allowance monies being siphoned, and ‘Rela members’ masquerading as someone they are not.

Rela’s website has been loading extremely slowly since news about this broke yesterday. Some individuals, shocked to find their names registered as Rela members, managed to check their details on the website again, and said that they had been removed from the website late last night.

Twentytwo13 visited the website earlier today but found that the site was “under maintenance”.

Rela’s statement issued this morning is perplexing and does nothing to answer some fundamental questions. The uniformed body said: “Rela wishes to emphasise that allegations regarding the use of an individual’s personal data for their automatic registration as a Rela member without their consent are not true” and that “such actions violate Section 6(1) of the Personal Data Protection Act.”

I beg to differ. No, Rela, I didn’t sign up to be a member and neither did many other Malaysians who were caught off guard after seeing their names on the list.

What the statement failed to address is:

1. How did Rela obtain the personal data of Malaysians on its website?

2. How does it conduct its vetting process?

3. Have any Rela authorisation cards been made or issued following the registration?

4. Were claims submitted using details of those who were in the dark about their memberships?

5. Will Rela take full responsibility if the Inland Revenue Board starts knocking on the doors of those who had signed up without their knowledge, for allowances “claimed”?

6. Will Rela be open to investigations by police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to rule out any form of corrupt practices that may arise from this saga?

7. Why should the responsibility to terminate the Rela membership be put on a person who did not even consent to be a member?

8. Will Rela take full responsibility if its authorisation card, bearing the details of a victim, was misused for illegal activity?

Rela said it was in the midst of conducting a “membership rationalisation” programme, and that memberships of those who had been inactive for the past five years would be terminated. Members who are still interested to continue can do so by writing to Rela.

Those who had been “registered” as a Rela member and wish to terminate his or her membership can contact Rela at 03-8870 3770, or email pro_rela@moha.gov.my.

The uniformed body is conducting an internal probe as a spokesperson said Rela “is looking at all angles.”

The probe should include claims that commanding officers were told to recruit as many Rela members as possible some 10 years ago, and that Rela members had used the voters’ registration list to increase their numbers, as reported by Twentytwo13 yesterday.

The findings of the probe must be made public. The questions above must be answered.

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