An independent police complaints commission is essential but the process must begin with a green paper, says Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged).
On Monday, 7 October, MPs will be asked by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong to approve the IPCMC Bill. What should they do?
An IPCMC is included in promise 20 of Buku Harapan (“Book of Hope”), the 2018 general election manifesto which attracted voters to choose Pakatan Harapan.
In what follows, we use “Monday’s bill” to refer to what we anticipate in the bill. The minister invited and collected our feedback, but has not extended us a copy of Monday’s bill.
In the manifesto, IPCMC is the acronym for “Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission” – just as proposed in 2005 by the Police Commission.
In Monday’s bill, IPCMC is the acronym for “Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission” (“of” has replaced “and”).
Monday’s bill falls far short of the 2005 proposal. This is because it is modelled on the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), which even the government agrees is a failed institution.
If the EAIC is a toothless tiger, Monday’s IPCMC is a toothless, limbless tiger, since it has even less investigative powers than the EAIC.
MPs should send the minister back to re-draft the bill. They should provide him, minimally, with the following guidance:
First, the bill should be modelled on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, an institution which, under the right leadership, has proven effective. There is a massive difference between MACC and EAIC commissioners. MACC commissioners have police ranks and are “always on duty”. EAIC commissioners are mere laypersons. MACC commissioners strike fear; EAIC commissioners do not.
Second, the bill should not be restricted to complaints of misconduct. Presently, the bill has no definition of complaint. The drafters say the definition is in the domain of the Public Complaints Bureau. Checks show that the bureau will not investigate complaints on subjects which are under the authority of the MACC. It should be the same for the IPCMC.
Third, the bill should mandate that the police cannot investigate deaths and grievous injuries which may have been caused by police actions. Police shootings and deaths in police custody must be investigated by the IPCMC. It follows that the bill must include provisions for holding evidence and suspects and establish commissioners with police ranks.
Fourth, the bill must clarify what model of independence is adopted. Presently, the bill is unclear. Is the model akin to Hong Kong, where the police investigate themselves, supervised by a commission? Or is it akin to Northern Ireland, where police are investigated by an independent force? Or somewhere in between, as in England and Wales?
Fifth, data must be released to enable MPs and the public to assess whether the bill will aid police reform. The Ministry of Home Affairs should release data on complaints the police received since 2005 and their effectiveness in resolving them. Without data – as suggested in the “green paper” proposal in promise 16 of the manifesto – any new bill will disappoint.
We conclude with two observations.
First, restoring the severely damaged reputation of the Malaysian police is a national priority and an independent police commission is essential.
Second, with respect to consultation, Minister Liew has done better than his colleagues, but in Malaysia Baru, the process must begin with a green paper.
Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged)
6 October 2019