IT doesn’t take rocket science to figure out the difference between consumerism and gambling. It also doesn’t take a genius to know it is the policeman’s job to stamp out organised crime and gambling syndicates.

But there seems to be some confusion over that in Putrajaya yesterday when Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi sought the help of the Malaysian Muslim Consumers’ Association (PPIM) to weed out gambling activities in the country.

“The Home Ministry together with the police are fighting the gambling menace. This is their responsibility, but we hope that PPIM will assist police,” said Zahid, who is also the home minister.

Let’s be clear what consumer groups do and the duties of enforcement authorities, such as the police. And ask yourself if the country needs more spies and spooks tasked to stamp out illegal gambling?

Malaysia now has police, a network of reserve volunteers through Rela, enforcement officials from local councils and kampung who are the eyes and ears of the government.  

Isn’t that enough? Are they inefficient, ineffective or just not trusted?

Or does Putrajaya still need the help of a 20-year-old group with four million members – mostly doctors, university lecturers, religious scholars and those concerned about consumerism issues in Islam.

If that is what PPIM has to do now, what of its core reasons of existence? The Muslim group says it aims to safeguard and defend the rights and restore the dignity of Islamic consumers, through the implementation of proactive and strategic activities.

Is looking out for gambling activities part of that? And why only a Muslim group? Isn’t Putrajaya giving too much space to just one group to carry this out?

Add to that the RM500,000 that Zahid presented to PPIM for its activities. Are the other groups getting a similar amount to help the police?

After all, Zahid did say police have carried out 7,900 operations against gambling activities this year. although the money confiscated is small.

Perhaps it’s because these groups are using the internet for their activities rather than physical means to accept bets and money.

Perhaps Zahid and Putrajaya are better off planning something comprehensive to tackle illegal gambling rather than just relying on consumer groups to be its eyes and ears.

That move promotes vigilante culture and Malaysia has already seen some of that with enthusiastic people defending those whose hire-purchase payments lapse, or paying the fines of at least one woman found guilty of impersonating a dentist.

Malaysia needs a government that knows what it is doing, not one that arbitrarily deputise people for enforcement beyond their capabilities. It also does not need religious-based enforcement groups.

Illegal gambling is a crime, and a big one with a fair number of syndicates still pulling the strings. It has no religion except money.

Putrajaya should know that and get those competent to wipe it out, not a group of consumerists who are more interested in keeping prices fair and products safe for Muslims.