PETALING JAYA: Human rights lawyers have expressed their disbelief over Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement yesterday, that an international body had rated the Malaysian police force as the best in Asean.
“Can Zahid tell us which so-called international body said this? (It’s) quite hard to believe,” lawyer Latheefa Koya said in a text message to FMT today.
Zahid, who is also the home minister, did not name the international body which had given the rating, or furnish any other details to back the statement he made at the “Addressing Perception on Safety and Security” forum yesterday.Her PKR colleague, Padang Serai MP N Surendran said Zahid’s claim has “no real basis”.
This is because human rights violations such as deaths in police custody are still prevalent in the country, he said.
“Deaths in custody continue to plague the police force, and there is no evidence of serious efforts being made to deal with it.
“Instead, top police officers and ministers are quick to defend the cops when death in custody occurs,” he told FMT, citing the revelations into the death of 44-year-old car theft suspect, S Balamurugan, as an example.
During a hearing conducted by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), which was held to determine if there was any police misconduct in Balamurugan’s death, one Corporal Mohd Luqmanul Hakim Mukhtar admitted to have been aware that he ( Balamurugan) had a heart condition.
Luqmanul however, didn’t inform anyone of this information. He had also said he was “joking” when shown a WhatsApp message of him dismissing a report that Balamurugan was “trembling” a few hours before he died.
“Just give him Carlsberg, he will be ok,” Luqmanul was reported to have said in the message to his peers inside the Klang Utara police district headquarters WhatsApp chat group.
Lawyer P Uthayakumar supported Surendran’s statement, telling FMT that the reality didn’t tally with what Zahid had said.
“Over the years, there have been many cases of enforced disappearances, custodial deaths and police abuse.
“So how can the deputy prime minister say that the country is safe, and that the crime rates have gone down?”
He added that there was on average, one case of custodial death every two weeks or so.
“In 2006 and 2007, the number of custodial death cases dropped drastically, by 90%. Then since 2014 we are seeing the same trend from 20 years ago.
“We are back to square one, where about every two weeks, there is one case of death in custody.”
Meanwhile, Surendran said the police appeared to spend more time investigating political crimes such as the “peaceful gatherings” organised by opposition parties and civil societies.
“Unnecessary and oppressive investigations are also carried out under the Sedition Act as well as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Act, mainly against the opposition and civil societies.”
These, he added, are not the characteristics of a good police force.
“All these ratings are of no use, because the public on the ground can see the reality, and will continue to question the police force unless changes are made,” Surendran said.
Transparency-International Malaysia’s Global Corruption Barometer survey published in February this year, stated that police force is yet again perceived as the most corrupt institution in the country.
This was stated by 57% of the survey’s 1,009 respondents. A similar survey conducted in 2013 revealed that 76% of the 1,000 Malaysian respondents viewed the police as the most corrupt.