Bar Council and HAKAM renew calls for commission to probe police misconduct

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Source: adapted from The Malaysian Insider

Bar Council president Steven Thiru and co-chair of the Council's task force on IPCMC & HAKAM Exco member, M. Ramachelvam, speak to reporters in Kuala Lumpur today, announcing renewed campaign to establish a free commission to probe police misconduct. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Kamal Ariffin, May 28, 2015

Bar Council president Steven Thiru and co-chair of the Council’s task force on IPCMC & HAKAM Exco member, M. Ramachelvam, speak to reporters in Kuala Lumpur today, announcing renewed campaign to establish a free commission to probe police misconduct. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Kamal Ariffin, May 28, 2015

The Bar Council together with the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) are renewing calls for the implementation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as recommended by a royal commission of inquiry some 10 years ago.

Council chairman Steven Thiru said that in view of Putrajaya’s refusal to set up the IPCMC, the Bar and Hakam are organising a public forum this Saturday, 30 May 2015, to continue pushing for its implementation.

“It has been 10 years since the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Police Reform headed by former chief justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah recommended that the IPCMC be set up, and we have been on a nationwide roadshow to call for this again,” he told reporters at the Bar Council headquarters in Kuala Lumpur today.

The forum is being organised by the Bar Council Task Force on the IPCMC, whose co-chair, M. Ramachelvam, who is also a HAKAM Exco member, pointed out that Putrajaya had instead set up the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC).

“The EAIC is a much watered-down substitute to the IPCMC, with no focus on the police force,” he said.

“The Bar Council is of the view that it is imperative that the IPCMC be set up and in this forum, we also want to engage with the government and law enforcement agencies.”

The forum will see a keynote address by Dzaiddin and the participation of critics of the IPCMC such as former Kuala Lumpur CID chief, Tan Sri Zaman Khan Rahim Khan.

Ramachelvam, however, revealed that Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, one of the strongest opponents to IPCMC, has declined to attend the forum.

“Our view is that it is an important issue to discuss in view of the issues we have continued to face, including custodial deaths, police brutality, abuse and such.”

Steven said there were a total of 261 deaths in custody from the year 2000 to 2014, an average of one death per month.

“Even one death per month is one too many.”

Bar Council’s human rights committee co-chair Andrew Khoo said the recent discovery of the mass graves in Wang Kelian, Perlis and the subsequent arrest of 12 police officers in relation to the incident showed that the renewed calls for the IPCMC to be set up was timely.

“Although the arrests shows that the police is able to keep their house in order, this may very well be the tip of the iceberg. We are suggesting an independent body be set up.

“We are also still wondering about the effectiveness of the EAIC which focuses on 19 enforcement agencies. We want one that is singularly focused on the police.”

He also said the EAIC should, look into every case of custodial death but added that there have been very few investigations opened against the police.

“We don’t hear if the EAIC doing any probe. If they do, we should hear about it. It must be made public so that the people will have confidence in the system and in their accountability,” Khoo said.

Steven added that with the passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) in the Dewan Rakyat recently, the police have been accorded “enormous” powers, with that, there should be a greater accountability of their actions.

“With those greater powers, there must be greater accountability. The need for a greater accountability comes as parliament comes up with even more laws such as the Pota,” the Malaysian Bar chief said.

Rama said besides custodial deaths, the Bar was also concerned about issues of deaths and injuries during police encounters.

“They may be criminals but they also have the right to due process of the justice system.” – May 28, 2015.