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Reality check on reforming the police April 8, 2006

Posted by elizabethwong in Columns, Current Affairs, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.
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Formation [Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia]I read a commentary piece, where our boys in blue reportedly turned on the taps, during a closed-door meeting between the ruling coalition parliamentarians and the police over the proposed bill on the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

I almost cried too – from laughter.

Perhaps many would fail to appreciate the fine show put up by the police. But for many of us who have been working on police reform for more than a decade, we have documented and seen too many cases to start dishing out tissues, group hugs and Washington apples.

It wasn’t too long ago when the former (now disgraced) Inspector-General of Police, Rahim Noor, threatened human rights organizations with arrest and indefinite detention without trial when we tried to organise a gathering of victims of police brutality.

Rahim Noor had a problem with the image of dozens of people on stage, recounting how the police sided with developers who were conducting illegal evictions, or women repeating what police officers said to them when they tried to lodge domestic violence reports, or of family members describing the bruises and welts on the cold bodies of their loved ones, who were well and alive before they were placed in police lockups.

Apparently, what we had planned ‘berbau Marxis’ (smells of Marxism). I didn’t know many Marxists who wore Chanel no. 19. My partner was so tickled that he rang from London and asked if he could trademark the tagline and begin mass- producing t-shirts. He was convinced that fans of Nirvana would buy them in bulk, thinking there was an unreleased hit song.

However, we decided then to postpone the gathering as we were unable to guarantee those giving testimonies would not be arrested. As replacement, we held a dialogue with the police at their headquarters.

Regime change a must

What came out of it was the distinct impression that, for all the abuses of power and misdeeds committed by the police, they were well protected by the power-that-be. Ismail Che Ros, then Head of Criminal Investigation Department, gave us a long lecture peppered with sneers, and ended with this note:-

“You don’t like it, you can sue us.”

Less than a year after the dialogue, they arrested the then Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, and Rahim Noor used the occasion to hone in his boxing skills.

Reforming the police, without regime change, is an almost impossible task. We have had two Royal Commissions of Inquiry and an existing National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), but how little things have changed.

In the event the IPCMC bill is passed in Parliament, if its powers are whittle to that of Suhakam, it will serve as yet another depository of complaints and grievances.

While we can throw brickbats at the police, we have in fact forgotten who is really in charge of the police.

It is not the Inspector-General of Police, but the Minister for Internal Security, who happens to be the prime minister, with two other deputy ministers to assist him.

Thus, the question of political will comes into play. Does the minister want to reform the police, or perhaps it is in the interest of the ruling coalition to tinker with nominal issues and leave the fundamentals intact?

Not a pretty picture

Hishamuddin Rais, an activist detained in the 2001 Internal Security Act (ISA) sweep, wrote the following in his affidavit:-

“During an interrogation, the Interrogating Officer stood up and pointed his hand at me (in the style as if he was holding a gun his hand) and said “Kamu hanya berdemo – nanti jika PAS atau Barisan Alternatif menang, kami semua akan turun dengan senjata mengganas di jalan raya. Kami ada pengalaman dan dilatih. Tak sampai seminggu Barisan Alternatif akan bungkus”. (You guys are only demonstrating – if PAS or the Alternative Front wins, we’ll all take to the streets with weapons. We are trained and we have experience. The Alternative Front won’t last a week)”

It isn’t a pretty picture but it does illustrate that the relationship between the police and the ruling isn’t as fractious as we imagine.

So here I am in Banda Aceh, catching up with an old friend. Rachland, a former political fugitive, now spearheads a human rights group in Jakarta. He has recently completed his task of leading the Presidential fact-finding team to investigate the murder of Munir, an extraordinary human rights advocate in Indonesia.

He is in Aceh this week to run a compulsory training session on ‘cara mereformasikan polisi’ (way to reform the police) at the district police headquarters.

It is hard for any Malaysian NGOs to even fathom the thought of doing something similar here, much less utter the word ‘reformasi’.

So the question begs to be asked. How does one get from point A to B?

With a smile, he puts down his cup of dark coffee and quips, “Reformasi, dong!”

(13th Floor, Malaysiakini.com)

Comments»

1. amaruhizat - March 19, 2007

This article reminds me of the “Great brinks robbery” case in 1950 (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Brinks_Robbery).

A classic case example pertaining to the latin proverb: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

While the company is busy looking out guarding, their homebase was robbed by a group of robbers disguised in the company’s security uniform. How ironic.

But back to the topic: who will guard the guards themselves, I don’t know, it sounded like a never ending situation.

Lets say a body is succesfully put to watch over them, the question is, who will watch the watcher of the watchmen then?

2. Philip Lau - May 21, 2007

ELEZABETH WONG

Well! I must say the Malaysian Police is not as bad as the Pakistan, Zamzibar, etc Police.

Recently, the Registar of the High Court, a supporter of the suspended/dismissed Chief Justice of Pakistan, was simply shot dead by the Police in his Chambers. Nothing is being done. Of course the Police has the blessings of the Pakistan President

Worse things occur now and then to the Opposition Zamzibar. The police openly can of course upon orders catch the ring leaders and break their necks as reported. There are NO law and orders in those countries.

In Malayssia. as least there is some form of law and order. Of course, what was done to Anwar when he was in prison beaten very badly by the former Inspector-General of the Malaysian Police Force, Rahim Noor, who denied beating Anwar up but admitted it subsequently, paid for his crime as he went to prison I believe and paid damages to Anwar.

But the PM was Tun Dr M M who was the man behind all this. He is still as influential but rather frustrated.

What was spoken by the CID Director, above was very worrying and frightening . Pak Lah in charge every body hopes will do something and listen to the public at least some consideration to bring the image of police better as it is shit at the moment. The two Deputy Ministers of Security under the PM every one hope will do something as at the moment as it appears they are above the law contrary to what the Prime Minister uttered. Remember the Inspector General Musa Itam is under him who obtains orders from the Depity Prime Minister for what you read in the press.

Have some hope, your Police Force is better than many other country.


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