No place for political interference in police force

Fundamental reforms of the police force and its oversight mechanisms cannot be delayed any longer.

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The Malaysian Bar views with serious concern the recent claims made by the former Inspector General of Police Hamid Bador regarding, amongst others, alleged political interference into the management and operations of the police force on the transfers and appointments of officers, attempts to direct the Special Branch to conduct politically motivated operations, and the current efficacy of the Police Force Commission (SPP) including pending decisions in relation to disciplinary cases.

The alleged or purported unlawful conduct and political interference undermine the integrity, legitimacy, and professionalism of the force. Ministers of government, as elected representatives, must at all times exercise their powers fairly, responsibly and honourably.

Abuse of power – which manifests itself in interference for political, partisan or personal expediency, cronyism and nepotism – cannot be tolerated and must be stamped out entirely. This needs to be done urgently in view of the police force’s critical role in maintaining law and order and public safety.

Public service demands that the police force be impartial – political and partisan affiliations, connection and consideration must not be allowed to play any role whatsoever when the police carry out their duties. Police officers should only act in accordance with the law and obey legitimate orders and must be answerable to the law for their conduct. They owe their duty and loyalty to the people of Malaysia, not to politicians.

Transfers and appointments must be based on relevant criteria such as merit and experience, and operations should be carried out in accordance with national mandates. These cannot be done based on the whims of any particular individual for their political, partisan or personal reasons.

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Thus, the Malaysian Bar calls for the establishment of a royal commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of political interference in the police force, with a view of recommending sound institutional structures, transparent and accountable governance and best practices, to eliminate any such improper interference.

For example, to minimise the exertion of political, partisan and personal influence in the SPP and the police force, amendments should be made to Article 140(3)(a) of the Federal Constitution to ensure that the chairperson of the SPP be someone who is independent of the executive. Section 4(1) of the Police Act 1967 should also be amended to make the inspector general responsible to the SPP instead of the minister, as is the current position.

We also call on the SPP and its members to exercise their duties fully and effectively, and to act as an active check and balance on one another to ensure that the integrity of the SPP is not compromised. The constitutional duties of the SPP must be upheld and the conduct of its members must be beyond reproach.

The serious issues raised by the former inspector general should provide the necessary resolve to undertake comprehensive reforms to strengthen the police force. Such reforms must by necessity include the formation of an independent police complaints and misconduct commission (IPCMC).

Fundamental reforms of the police force and its oversight mechanisms cannot be delayed any longer.

AG Kalidas is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

 

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