Retain Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission for officers other than police

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled by the decision of the Pakatan Harapan-led government to abolish the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) through the proposed Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) 2019 Bill.

Section 51 of the new bill states: “The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission Act 2009 [Act 700] (the “repealed Act”) is repealed and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (the “dissolved Commission”) is dissolved.’

Although the future new IPCMC would be dealing with complaints about police officers, the EAIC is currently dealing with complaints about almost all other enforcement agencies officers, including the Immigration Department, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Labour Department, the Industrial Relations Department, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, the Road Transport Department and the Department of Environment.

A perusal of the statistics of complaints received indicate that complaints were received concerning many other agencies other than the police.

The recent toxic pollution incident in Pasir Gudang and subsequent events indicate the failings of many of these enforcement agencies. These agencies seem to have failed to do their work efficiently and only seem to start acting after the failure in enforcement resulted in catastrophe, including deaths in some cases.

It was shocking when so many illegal factories were discovered after the Paris Gudang incident and how so many summons for violations of the law were issued to factories after the incident. This is an indication of the failure of responsible enforcement agencies, even after Pakatan Harapan formed the government in May 2018.

In a case where two workers died, Selangor health director Khalid Ibrahim in a statement said the confirmed number of factory workers exposed to the ammonia gas was 27 people, including the two who were killed.

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“An inspection by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) at the ice factory in Section 36 here, where ammonia gas had leaked earlier today, found that the premises had a licence to carry out ice-processing activities, but was not permitted to store hazardous materials” (MBSA: Ice factory had no licence to store hazardous materials, The Star, 13 August 2019).

This again is a failure of the local council, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health under the Ministry of Human Resources and maybe others.

There have also been many other allegations concerning the failings of Ministry of Human Resources enforcement officers and likewise the Department of Environment.

As such, Madpet believes the EAIC is very much still needed, and its powers should also be extended to prosecution. The scope of agencies covered by the EAIC should also be extended, including to maybe cover also the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Prisons Department and even the Electoral Commission.

The fundamental problem with the efficiency of the EAIC and soon the IPCMC is the lack of public awareness.

The second problem is a question of confidence ie the question of whether there is any use lodging complaints or bringing matters to the attention of the EAIC.

As such, it is important that the public is made aware of the action taken, including the number of officers prosecuted or disciplined and for what. This will restore faith and more people will come forward to highlight wrongdoings. Complainants should be kept updated about the outcome of their complaints.

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The third issue is the question of public access. There really should be an office of the EAIC and soon the IPCMC at all major towns. These commissions should also have sufficient staff to carry out the work.

Many of these wrongdoings of enforcement agencies impact negatively on people and their rights. Mere disciplinary actions like fines, transfers or demotions simply are not adequate. These wrongdoings can also affect the environment and health, some of it in irremediable ways.

As such, there must not simply be just the removal of such bad apples from the civil service, but the public prosecution and trial of all such wrongdoers. This will also serve as a deterrent to others while improving the image of the administration of justice and government.

As such, even the proposed IPCMC Bill ought to be amended to give the commission the power to prosecute, not merely the power to discipline.

A list of names of all officers fined or disciplined should also be made public, including the nature of the particular wrongdoing.

The EAIC, in the past, did conduct several inquiries, including into deaths in custody but alas, there seemed to be no action taken.

For example, in the death in custody case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur, who died in 2014, the EAIC found that “the use of physical violence by police during arrest and questioning was the cause of death”.

According to the enforcement watchdog, its investigations also found attempts to obscure evidence from the 25-year-old’s interrogation that resulted in 61 separate injuries on various parts of his body (Malay Mail, 30 October 2015). But alas, to date, we have not heard about the prosecution and trial of these police officers who broke the law.

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This reminds us about the recent findings in April 2019 of the inquiry into the enforced disappearance of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) – and we still see no prosecution. It is already almost four months.

It is a waste of time to have such commissions, including the EAIC, and then the attorney general or the government fail to act on these findings. That is why all these commissions, including Suhakam, the EAIC and the future IPCMC should have prosecution powers. The lack of action by the attorney general and the government will only dampen the commitment of such commissions.

Therefore, Madpet:

  • calls on the government to retain the EAIC, and as such remove Section 51 from the proposed IPCMC 2019 Bill that is now before Parliament
  • calls on the government to amend laws to give the EAIC, Suhakam and even the proposed IPCMC prosecution powers
  • calls on the government to adopt a stringent policy with regard to public servants: a failure in duty, which also may violate the rights of other(s) including bringing about an impact to public health or the environment, and/or that may bring about injustice, should result in termination, prosecution and trial in open court. This includes the failure to inform the relevant authorities when senior or fellow officers or the minister breaks the law.
  • calls on the attorney general and/or the government to immediately prosecute police officers found to have allegedly killed and/or tampered with evidence in the cases of Syed Mohd Azlan and others. Let the court determine guilt and innocence. The government should stop protecting public servants and/or ministers.

Charles Hector released this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).

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