Public Forum on Police Accountability
13 December 2014
Bayview Georgetown Hotel, Penang
Speech by Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Tuan Lim Guan Eng
• Christopher Leong, President of the Malaysian Bar
• Abdul Fareed Bin Abdul Gafoor, Chairman of the Penang Bar
• Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Past-President of the Malaysian Bar, Member of the Royal Commission for Police Reform & Co-Chairperson of Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC
• Dato’ M. Ramachelvam, Co-Chairperson of Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC
• YB Dr. Afif Bahardin, Member of the Penang State Executive Committee
• Dato’ V. Sithambaram, Co-Chairperson of Bar Council Criminal Law Committee
• Yap Swee Seng, Representative from Suaram
• Members of the Bar
• Invited guests
• Ladies and Gentlemen
The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operations and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police published its report in May 2005 – 9 years ago - to address challenging issues facing the Police force, among which were the “widespread concerns regarding the high incidence of crime, perception of corruption in the Royal Malaysia Police, general dissatisfaction with the conduct and performance of police personnel and a desire to see improvements in the service provided by the police”.
In addition, the Royal Commission also identified that there were too many deaths in custody, the failure of the police to investigate them and the failure to hold inquests into these deaths. These were key concerns raised by members of the public, non-governmental organizations and international organisations.
The Royal Commission recommended the establishment of an Independent external oversight entity known as the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and who shall perform the following functions
• Receive and investigate complaints about PDRM and its personnel
• Prevent, detect and investigate corruption
• Prevent, detect serious misconduct in PDRM
• Propose measures to the Minister of Internal Security namely
o Improve police integrity
o Reduce misconduct
“misconduct” includes police corruption, commission of criminal offence and non-compliance with legal and police regulations
o Build public confidence in PDRM
The status of IPCMC would be as an independent body established pursuant to an Act of Parliament, whereby the Royal Commission had also drafted the proposed bill.
The proposed IPCMC would consist of the following:
- 7 commissioners
- With a tenure that is limited to three years
- Members not from retired or serving police force
An Annual Report would be presented to the Parliament for updates, statistics and details of the matters looked into.
However, regrettably to date, the IPCMC has not been introduced despite the continued occurrence of deaths in custody, the high incidences of crime, the perception of corruption and the general dissatisfaction due to the conduct and performance of the police personnel. The recommendation made by the Royal Commission on the IPCMC has not accepted by the Government. Instead, Parliament passed the EAIC (Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission) which is a gross failure.
Years after Kugan's death under police custody in 2009, nothing has changed, even though the IGP Khalid Abu Bakar was liable to misfeasance according to the High Court. This failure to set up ICPMC costs human lives as shown by at least 13 in custodial deaths under police detention this year, of which 7 are in Penang. DAP believes that police custodial deaths can be reduced if there is an IPCMC.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its 'No Answers, No Apology: Police Abuses and Accountability' report released in April this year in Kuala Lumpur revealed that just 7 percent of complaints against the police force between 2005 and 2012 reached a courtroom while more than half the cases has yet to be fully investigated.
From extrajudicial killings of teenagers to custodial deaths, threats to lawyers and assaults on journalists covering demonstrations, the report gives chilling and bloody first-person accounts of police abuse and misconduct. The report without a shadow of doubt further showed the urgency of setting up an external oversight body like IPCMC. But the government is still adamant in refusing to set up the IPCMC when such oversight body has been set up in many other countries.
The inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said that the police were not in favour of the setting up of IPCMC last year because the terms in the proposal treated police like second-class citizens. He claimed that a policeman picked up for corruption does not have the right to defend himself in the IPCMC.
Let the lawyers here deal with the police's concerns that they will be denied justice so that we can set up the IPCMC to both defend the public from abuses by the very force that are supposed to protect them as well as uphold the basic concept that the police can be held to account under the law and that no one should be given the privilege to investigate or judge their own alleged wrongdoings.
The IPCMC can also help to prevent the police from being abused and misused for political reasons such as these actions taken against PPS our Voluntary Patrol Unit and double-standards in investigating Sedition Act against opposition leaders and dissidents whilst UMNO leaders who preach religious and racial hatred escape unpunished.
Witness the inaction against UMNO ex-Deputy Minister Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim's dangerous lies accusing the Chinese community for burning the Quran through the Chinese's religious rituals, even though Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir had earlier announced, it was done by a mentally demented Malay Muslim, who had since been arrested and sent for medical treatment. Or Permatang Pauh UMNO Division Chief Datuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said's false claims that the Chinese economic strength was also due some of the time to the illegal activities of prostitution, gambling and entertainment outlets when even the Penang police had denied that there were any illegal activities.
I applaud the Bar Council and Penang Bar Committee for stepping up and taking the initiative to educate members of the public and society at large on the need for police accountability as there is not much publicity or understanding on why an independent body is needed to ensure a check and balance is in place for the law enforcement in this country.
LIM GUAN ENG