Who’s being protected and who’s being exploited, wonders Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances.
After Monday, 7 October, cops at the bottom of the police pyramid must be wondering who shapes the law in Malaysia. The prime minister? ministers? Police top brass? Study committees? The deep state? NGOs?
Last year, when seeking our votes, Pakatan Harapan promised to introduce an independent police complaints and misconduct commission (IPCMC). Three months ago, the government released a bill titled IPCMC. On Monday, 7 October the bill was “introduced” in parliament.
The introduction, delivered by de facto law minister Liew View Keong, raises many alarm bells.
We will explain our concern under three headings.
First, the lack of specificity
The introduction didn’t say what problems the bill is designed to prevent. It engaged in conjuring, which is the act of concealing and pretending.
It didn’t remind people of the tragedy which has befallen our police force.
It didn’t say that a few good officers paid heavily for refusing to be complicit in the rape of our nation by the Najib kleptocracy – even to the extent that in October 2015, Hamid Bador (now the inspector general of police) wrote an open letter in which he lamented the state of the force. Later, he resigned.
It didn’t speak of serious rot at the top. It didn’t speak of police officers who live in grand mansions, move vast sums of cash and give licences to their children to sell guns.
It didn’t say that police task forces such as Stagg, Stafoc and Sting, which involve gangs, narcotics and vice, have been disbanded because they abused their powers.
It didn’t remind the House that the police carry out enforced disappearances. Thanks to Suhakam, Amri Che Mat and Raymond Koh are the best-known victims, but there are many others.
It didn’t speak of the rampant abuse by officers of their power to detain people. Even some who are now ministers have been held overnight by the police “for questioning” to intimidate them.
It didn’t say the bill will put to an end to public hearings of deaths in custody – the very thing which drives the public to demand that the government must act urgently to improve lock-up hygiene, infrastructure and staffing.
Second, stripping and conjuring
Much has been written about this, so we can keep it short.
Even the name of the bill has been changed. It no longer includes the words “complaint” and “misconduct.” It is now called “Independent Commission for Police Conduct” Bill. The new commission has even less power than the failed Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC). Yet the introduction says the EAIC is being strengthened!
That fiction is limply supported by saying the renewed EAIC will now have the power to impose discipline. That’s conjuring, for the truth is this: the new commission will merely take credit for disciplinary actions the police choose to take against their own.
Here are two more concealed truths.
First, the new commission doesn’t have the EAIC’s power to search and seize without a warrant.
Second, the new commission is a disciplinary body, not an investigative body – this was made explicit to NGOs at a meeting with the minister on 19 September.
The government continues to hallucinate that powers needed to deal with the misconduct of corruption – powers proposed by the 2005 royal commission and included in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act – are not needed to deal with other misconduct.
Third, something odd in the introduction
Item number eight (“h”), in a list of eleven items, says the bill doesn’t apply to retired cops. This is contrary to what the royal commission urged. Its low position in the list seems designed to hide its importance. Why would the government state that the bill excludes retired cops?
Perhaps because influential persons who lead associations of retired cops threatened to campaign against the government in the next general election if the bill includes the teeth proposed by the royal commission? Perhaps because they pointed to Cameron Highlands where a former top cop, in a by-election, won handsomely for the kleptocrats who kicked out Hamid Bador?
The tragedy of the crushing of the IPCMC and the conjuring is this: the cops at the bottom are the losers. Why? Because the problems in the force are caused by people at the top, just as the problem of kleptocracy in the nation was caused by Najib and his cabinet. Police reform must begin at the top and only an independent commission can make it so.
So, who crushed the IPCMC? Who’s being protected? Who’s being exploited?