Caged responds to Hamid Bador’s call to stall IPCMC Bill

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MPs must insist on green papers and insist that the minister responsible for the affected institution must marshal and table the bill, according to Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged).

From the beginning, the police have spoken of the IPCMC as if it is a tiger to be rejected, despite having succeeded in making it a pussycat. 

The inspector general of police’s latest statement is probably just a continuation of the pretence of “reluctantly” accepting the IPCMC and “surrendering control.”

On 29 November Inspector General Hamid Bador was reported to have called on the government to delay the IPCMC Bill because the police think some of their reservations have not been given “fair attention”.

It was also reported that the parliamentary special select committee, which “looked into” the October version of the bill, had proposed 36 changes.

It appears the inspector general knows the changes and has responded to them. Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged) does not know the changes, but feels the inspector general’s remarks must be honoured with a response.

Caged urges members of Parliament to return the bill to the select committee IF it doesn’t meet certain minimum expectations.

The basic expectations of civil society organisations – also of the royal police commission in 2005 – are missing from the bill. There are many. We highlight four: wrong model, non-negotiables, bogeyman and interference with the Criminal Procedure Code.

Wrong model

Civil society does not recommend the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) model. Civil society recommends the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission model, in which commissioners are not persons who meet occasionally but officers with police ranks who are always on duty and have evidence rooms and holding cells. 

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If armed MACC officers are needed to investigate corruption, why should IPCMC officers with less power be assigned to investigate grievous injuries and deaths?

Non-negotiables

Grievous hurt and deaths in police custody must be investigated and decided upon by persons who are not retired or serving police officers. The bill must include measures to prevent suspects from fabricating, destroying or removing evidence from crime scenes. 

The IPCMC cannot have less power than the EAIC. We note the EAIC has power to seize without warrant and has specific provisions to hold public inquiries, but these powers are not bequeathed to the IPCMC.

Bogeyman

The ”discipline board” in the IPCMC is a bogeyman, an imaginary enemy. Police commissions we have studied do not include discipline boards. They make recommendations to police disciplinary boards. 

According to the drafters of the bill, the IPCMC is a discipline commission, not an investigation commission and “therefore it doesn’t need extensive investigation powers”.

We would support deferring the IPCMC discipline board, provided IPCMC investigation powers are enhanced and police disciplinary board data is published quarterly.

Interference with the Criminal Procedure Code and secrecy

When the EAIC investigates deaths in custody, it interferes with the Criminal Procedure Code and the Chief Justice’s directive that coroners must conduct inquests. Evidence made available to families by coroners is kept secret by the EAIC. This hampers the exercise by families of their right to justice using civil procedures.

We do not know what the IPCMC (November) bill says. We can only say that if it does not have powers similar to that of the MACC, if it does not force independent investigations of death and grievous hurt in custody, and if it ends transparent public coroners’ inquests, it is not the IPCMC promised in the Pakatan Harapan 2018 general election manifesto. MPs must reject it.

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We now add two general points.

First, there were no consultations with civil society before the bill was drafted. What Liew Vui Keong held are town hall meetings lasting about three hours each. At these meetings, civil society was asked to comment on “the bill”, not to choose between alternative models of police commissions, eg a completely independent commission such as the ombudsman in Northern Ireland, an oversight commission as in Hong Kong or something in between as in England and Wales.

In a Westminster-style democracy like Malaysia’s, the presentation of alternatives – and data about the variety and volume of problems to be solved – is done by the government publishing green papers and inviting the public to submit comments. Green papers are included in Promise 16 of the PH election manifesto. There is no green paper on the IPCMC.

Second, the bill should have been marshalled and tabled by Muhyiddin Yassin, the Home Minister, for it is he who is responsible for the police, not Liew, the law minister. Liew lacks functional knowledge of the strengths, weaknesses and operational dynamics of the police. Therefore, he cannot be responsible for an overhaul of how the police are governed.

To improve the process of law-making, for future bills, MPs must insist on green papers and insist that the minister responsible for the affected institution must marshal and table the bill. The minister must ensure meaningful dialogue – in this case, with the police and civil society organisations. 

There must be genuine commitment to “New Malaysia”.

30 November 2019

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