Police come under the spotlight

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Put up tent cannot, gather cannot, wear black cannot, hold candles cannot, drink teh tarik also cannot. No wonder the cops have come under intense scrutiny, observes Martin Jalleh.

 

2009 was a year when the police was unfortunately perceived to be playing politics and pandering to the wishes of their political (pay)masters rather than protecting the people. About 76 per cent of the respondents in a Home Ministry online survey (August 2009) said that they feel angry each time they see a police officer!

In an earlier Home Ministry online survey (July 2009), 97 per cent of 10,060 respondents felt unsafe due to the high crime rate; 95 per cent of 9,319 respondents felt the safety of the people was not guaranteed; and 94 per cent of 9,261 respondents felt the government had not done its best to ensure the safety of the people.

2009 witnessed the arrests of dozens of peaceful demonstrators by police, who appeared to act with little regard for the rule of law or the Federal Constitution and resorted to  actions that Bolehland has never seen before! Some perceived the police to be selectively enforcing laws.

A frustrated Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming poignantly portrayed the police’s preposterous actions: “Put up tent cannot, gather cannot, wear black cannot, hold candles cannot, drink teh tarik also cannot.” He forgot – prayer and fasting also cannot!

Speeches were forbidden at certain dinners organised by political parties (except for the BN of course). Permits were either flatly refused or revoked at the last minute or dinners rudely interrupted and audio visual equipment confiscated and/or the venue ringed with police presence.   

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The world watched in disbelief on 7 May 2009 as police barged into the august Perak State Assembly and forcefully dragged out the legitimate Speaker, detaining him for about 90 minutes. It caused even an Umno leader to express his disgust: “high-handedness at its foulest”.

The police persisted in this trend with the arrest of five lawyers who tried to render legal aid to those who had been arrested during a candlelight vigil in support of activist Wong Chin Huat, just before the Perak budget assembly on 28 October.

The opposition appeared to have their hands tied by the police’s highhandedness. Umno appeared to be given a free hand and an upper hand. The “Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission” (IPCMC) was shelved.

The disturbing number of suspected criminals being shot dead by the police mostly Indian Malaysians and the questionable deaths under police detention and migrant custodial deaths cast a further cloud on  the police in 2009.

In spite of all this, Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan’s contract was surprisingly extended for another year because of his “excellent performance”! (He has also been the most investigated IGP in the PDRM’s 202-year history!)

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein Onn was very honest when he said that “Musa’s services are very much needed by the federal government for the moment”.

It was Musa who played a major role in Anwar’s first sodomy trial.

The PM wants reducing crime to be a focus of the so-called “Key Result Area”. Yet, as highlighted by MP Tony Pua, there are about five times more riot cops than criminal investigators; the Special Branch is almost the same size as the team dedicated to fighting crime; and there are no plans to increase or restructure the police force!

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Alas, will Najib succeed in arresting the crime rate when he has a Home Minister who blames the country’s high crime rate on the “demonisation of the police”, backtracks on revisiting the Royal Commission’s report on the police and defends the police even to the extent of “rubbishing” the online findings of his very own ministry?

Will the government make much headway in curbing crime when we have a Home Minister who defended the Shah Alam cow-head protest sacrilege and who expressed sadness at the death of suspected terrorist and mass murderer Noordin Md Top for not having the opportunity to “rehabilitate” him?

Can the public expect fairness when a week after the cow-head protest, police arrested Hindraf leaders who wanted to hold a candlelight protest against what they considered a sacrilegious act in Shah Alam?

Martin Jalleh is a well known political commentator.

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