Rela knew of ‘sign-ups without consent’ 10 years ago but nothing was done, as even Twentytwo13 editor is on the list

Many are concerned about the possible personal data breach after learning that they have been registered as members of the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) without their knowledge or consent. This includes Twentytwo13 editor Haresh Deol.

Haresh checked the Rela website following conversations on social media about a possible data breach and found his full name, complete with his identity card number, platoon code membership number and registration date (April 4, 2011).

“I’ve never signed up to be a Rela member. This is scary. I view this as a serious personal data breach. How can such a thing happen? Am I now listed in other organisations without my knowledge?” asked Haresh.

Haresh’s details on Rela’s website.

“Is this also a case where names are being registered without one’s knowledge and someone else is profiting from the allowances? This has opened a can of worms and must be investigated.”

Among the benefits of being a Rela member include allowances of RM8 an hour for training or while on duty, free uniform and insurance and medical coverage while on duty.

Sources familiar with the matter said there was a time when commanding officers were told to recruit as many Rela members as possible.

“This has been going on for the past 10 years but nothing was done.

“Rela knew about this around 10 years ago and people then had already started questioning how they were listed as a Rela member when they didn’t sign up,” said the source who held a ranking position in Rela.

“There were those who took issue with this, saying their personal information had been misused, while others didn’t mind being a volunteer. Some of them had also lodged police reports regarding this.

“Later, it was discovered that Rela members had just copied the voters’ registration list as they wanted to increase the number of members.”

In 2013, it was reported that Rela had some 3.1 million members. It had aimed to increase it to five million by 2020.

“I don’t think Rela has 10 per cent of the three-odd million members it claims to have,” the source added.

He said registered Rela members carried an authority card. He did not discount the possibility that this card, bearing the details of those who had never signed up to be a member, could be misused.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic, being a Rela member gets you places. You will never know if someone could be holding a card bearing your personal details,” he added.

Haresh is not alone. Between The Lines editor, Darshini Kandasamy also found out that she had been a Rela member since January 2011 – without even signing up for the uniformed body.

“I was nonplussed,” said Darshini.

“I have absolutely no recollection of ever signing up for Rela so the fact that my details are listed on the website, clear as day, is very disconcerting.”

When asked if she viewed it as a breach of personal data, Darshini said: “Yes. It begs the question – how did my personal information get on the site? How was I ‘volunteered’?

“If my data could be retrieved, or used, whichever the case may be here, by a body under the federal government, where else is it being used?

“What were the safeguards or checks put in place to ascertain the authenticity of the ‘volunteer’?

She said this episode warranted a prompt and detailed explanation from authorities as it concerned the people’s personal data.