Malaysia is a middle-income nation at the cusp of transitioning into a high-income economy over the next few decades. With higher incomes come a greater need for protection, and this is demonstrated through the rise of close protection operatives, sometimes known as “bodyguards”.
Clad in their bush jackets, with some sporting moustaches and aviator sunglasses accompanied by a small sling-purse to complement their look, these are the most commonly noticed protection operatives within Malaysia. But how do they compare against operatives in the international sphere? This article attempts to make a side-by-side comparison of the industry between Malaysia and the rest of the world, in both the private and the government sectors.
The Need for Close Protection
Why do individuals feel the need to engage protection officers? Is it because they feel that there is a genuine threat to their safety? It is quite clear within the boundaries of the public sector that politicians need to be protected, and for good reason too. The latest assassination Malaysia has witnessed is that of land activist Bill Kayong, who was shot and killed at a traffic light in Eastern Malaysia. However, the issue of whether a close protection officer would have ultimately prevented this incident is of contention.
In terms of private individuals, Malaysia has seen an increase in the number of millionaires over the past twenty years, with the top 40 richest Malaysians seeing their wealth increase by RM63.62bil to RM290.48bil at the end of 2017.1
It is clear that the demand for protection is high and will continue to grow as Malaysia forges forward on its path to become a highly developed nation.
Despite the fact that crime has been falling over the past 8 years under the National Transformation Programme, the fear of falling victim to a crime according to the Crime Perceptions Indicator 2017 is at 40%.2
But how does our Malaysian modus operandi for close protection differ from international standards? We examine this conundrum via three elements, which are training, client expectations and government legislation.
What constitutes a “close protection operative” or a “bodyguard”? Technically, these two terms mean exactly the same thing. However, there are some cultures and parties which feel that the term “bodyguard” symbolises a hulking brute who we usually see pushing people away during crowds, wearing sunglasses indoors and quick to draw their weapon during the threat of conflict.3
Most certainly in the United States, with the likes of Justin Bieber’s protection group as well as rappers who enjoy the company of large entourages of big, burly males dressed in black who sport copious amount of jewellery, perhaps this has influenced the local Malaysian culture to an extent where a limited attempt has been made to emulate that of the US.
The perspective of the public as well as employers play a significant role in determining the expectations of a protection officer. There is case to be made for the fact that the term “bodyguard” is seen by a number of individuals to be that of derogative value.
Governing Systems and Training Requirements
In Malaysia, security training is governed by the Security Services Association of Malaysia (PPKKM), which is headed by a number of representatives by security companies4. The PPKKM sets training requirements for the security industry, the most basic of these being the Certified Security Guard (CSG) course.
According to an official letter of order published by the Ministry of Home Affairs, companies registered as Class A companies are required to send security guards for CSG training5, which is conducted by the PPKKM themselves. Previously, there did not seem to be a distinction between a close protection operative and a security guard, with companies specialising in bodyguarding required to send their operatives for CSG training anyway!
Come 2018, the Certified Bodyguard Course, conducted by the Police, has come into play for security agencies looking to deploy close protection officers.
DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THE MALAYSIAN PRIVATE BODYGUARDING SYSTEM AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
Instead of the PPKKM, the United Kingdom’s security industry is governed by a quasi-government organisation known as the Security Industry Authority (SIA) which is directly linked to the UK’s Home Office.
Unlike PPKKM, where it can be quite a daunting task to acquire the course modules and learning outcomes, the SIA publishes the modules directly on its website for individuals and training providers as well as security agencies to download.6
The SIA also does not directly conduct training courses, instead opening up the training market to training providers who adhere to their learning outcomes and are properly accredited under an Awarding Organisation.
This leads to a higher standard of transparency and completely eliminates the opportunity for monopolies and promotes strong anti-trust laws to ensure that no one is unfairly dominant in the market.
Unlike in Malaysia, where the onus is placed on security agencies to ensure that their security operatives remain compliant with the PPKKM law, the responsibility in the UK is placed on the individual operatives themselves, with any one individual hoping to become a security officer or a close protection operative required to attain an SIA license in order to work as in such roles.
Key Differences between the UK and Malaysia Training Modules
The Malaysian close protection training market appears to focus on “hard” skills such as pistol shooting, close quarter combat and defensive driving. A multitude of training providers in Malaysia run military-style training camps between eight to ten days, which consist of physical training, pistol skills, defensive tactics, foot drills and defensive driving, with a smattering of law and legislation related to the security industry.
Due to a distinct lack of training in conflict management, risk assessment and planning, the locally trained close protection operative could be left with no other option other than an aggressive potentially lethal response to a situation which could otherwise be de-escalated using skills taught on the UK accredited course.
There also seems to be a lack of accreditation when it comes to the Malaysian syllabus; on paper, there seems to be no training provider which is “approved” or “endorsed” by the Malaysian government, with many private companies setting up under retired/ex-police and ex-army personnel, marketing themselves by the power of their instructors.
Firearms are not featured whatsoever in the UK’s syllabus, solely due to the fact that a blanket ban on pistols has been enforced in the UK since the Dunblane school shootings which occurred a number of decades ago.
The SIA - International Gold Standard
It should be no surprise that the bodyguard industry itself was responsible for driving the standards required by the Security Industry Authority in the U.K. The protection industry has long been influenced by police, military and corporate security input to create a code of conduct and best practice shared and upheld by all. The Home Office’s decision to formally monitor and regulate the industry with the Private Security Industry Act (2001) was brought into being with the consultation of those experts in the industry with a specific aim of raising the standards of the industry and eliminating the criminal element that so often plagues those countries with an unregulated security industry. As such the British SIA licence is seen as the gold standard for security operatives around the world.
International Close Protection Companies
All international close protection companies use as a minimum requirement - the United Kingdom’s SIA licence as a reliable and consistent gauge of operator skill set. Because they know that in order to achieve an SIA frontline Close Protection licence, the licence holder would have met the following standards:
• Achieved a pass on a recognised Level 3 Close Protection qualification.
• Achieved a pass on a recognised Level 3 Medical qualification.
• Passed a criminal record check.
This comfort blanket of minimum standards is what drives the international market to look towards the SIA for its operators. Even non-British operators with military or police backgrounds from developed nations are often required to attend and pass a Level 3 Close Protection qualification regulated by the SIA. The reason for this is that although they may come from excellent backgrounds such as the French Foreign Legion or perhaps the Swedish Rangers, there is no way of confirming that the close protection training they may or may not have received has met the minimum standards of the industry unless they have achieved this by conducting regulated and recognised training.
A large proportion of people wanting to embark on a career in close protection are attracted by the high salaries achievable in both the corporate and hostile sectors. Whether the operator wants to ply his trade in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia or a major European City, the SIA endorsed Level 3 Close Protection certificate is what international companies often seek as a minimum standard.
As previously mentioned, there is a ban on handguns within the UK. This therefore dictates that a Close Protection Operative employed within the UK will be unarmed, hence the non- requirement for handgun training on the SIA course. However, all Close Protection Officers (CPO’s) within the UK Police are armed and receive regular training and assessment in order to remain active. All potential CPO candidates are current serving Police Officers and have had years of experience of dealing with conflict management and situation resolution which stands them well for when they become a CPO.
Interaction with the public is key due to the ‘principals’ that the UK Police are protecting and as such the ‘soft skills’ taught or encouraged come into their own. By winning over a public crowd, you can effectively turn them into ‘eyes and ears’ to help your protection operation.
It is clear that there our two countries operate differently, with Malaysia seeming to favour the use of firearms, whilst the UK focuses on soft skills such as conflict management, route planning, principal engagement and public negotiation skills.
Is Malaysia ready to move ahead from the constant focus on firearms and tactical training as a basis for close protection? Most certainly in developed countries around the region such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China and Hong Kong, the drive towards planning, preparation and conducting a close protection operation is one which is astute and determined, with relevant legislation being written into place to support this.
It would take a paradigm shift from the current mentality of “firearm first, planning second” which appears to permeate the current industry, supported strongly by prominent security companies as well as the new government in order for Close Protection to see a significant advancement in this day and age within Malaysia.
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