• UM Law Society

POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY IN MALAYSIA

As the new year begins, a common enemy the world currently faces is one deeply rooted in our history. Abuse of power amongst the members of law enforcement and police misconduct has been a long standing topic of discussion. Recent cases have resulted in various protests across the world, advocating for reformation and increased preventive measures against excessive use of power by the law enforcement. Amongst the several disheartening cases of police brutality, the protest following the death of George Floyd under the hands of a policeman in Minnesota, United States is perhaps one of the biggest national movements 2020 has seen.

While Malaysia’s current affairs pertaining to this matter may not receive as much international coverage, Malaysia is, unfortunately, still no exception to this predicament. The Banting case, in which 13 detainees were unfairly detained for nearly two weeks and received maltreatment during their remand, had brought to (the forefront the issue of Malaysia’s own police force) so they only brought it to the forefront this year I think it may be better to mention this in passing and instead focus on deaths in custody etc, i think if you refer to amnesty international they have the names for you. The public outcry which followed urged the government to make quicker decisions in finding a solution to the matter, which includes the tabling of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill the tabling of this bill has been called for, for a very long time The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management the Op and Management of...? introduced this bill long ago, back in 2005, as an effort to tackle and address the widespread concerns of misconduct and corruption amongst the Royal Malaysia Police (Polis Diraja Malaysia, “PDRM”). The Royal Commission had reportedly received close to a thousand complaints of police abuse of power and custodial deaths, alongside findings of a law enforcement system which lacks accountability and transparency. The death of S. Balamurugan and S. Mahendran in police custody are only two of the long list of police misconduct cases.

The dire need for change was apparent, thus, the long pause in tabling the recommended IPCMC bill raised concerns from the civil society. Despite the Enforcement Agent Integrity Commission (EAIC) that came in its stead in 2009, the public was dissatisfied with the newly established body. Even though it had the power to recommend actions against misconduct, it did not have the authority to prosecute nor impose punishments onto accused individuals. Hence, the campaign to urge the formation of the IPCMC proceeded. Only after a much prolonged postponement, the bill finally had its first reading in 2019. Those hopeful strides, however, were once again shattered as the government announced the replacement of IPCMC with the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) in August of 2019.

The IPCC functions similarly to IPCMC, and essentially acts as a complaints committee to investigate allegations of police misconduct, such as sexual crimes, grievous hurt, and custodial death. Even so, there are still differences between the IPCMC and the IPCC that are worth noting. Perhaps the most crucial feature of the IPCMC is that it is a police oversight body that is independent, monitored by the legal affairs division. The IPCC lacks this independence, as it does not include disciplinary powers that could ensure the implementation of its recommendations and (places the commission under direct supervision of the Home Ministry instead) this part, move to right after the independence bit. Dato’ Seri M Ramachelvan, Malaysian Bar Council IPCMC task force chairman, said that this could lead to the public’s loss of trust in the commission. The newer Bill also allows police officers to refuse answering to the commission lest exposure of officers may lead to criminal charges.

The objections to the IPCMC stem from claims that the commission contravened Article 140 of the Federal Constitution, which states that the Police Force Commision are permitted much control over appointments, transfers and disciplinary control. However, the Constitution also allows disciplinary control over another authority, what provision is this, maybe reproduce the exact words necessary, no need all, but just the words that may be fit into your sentence clearly showing that it sees that a separate body may be required to oversee the police force.

With that having been said, it is important that we understand the long history of police misconduct in our country, in order to ensure the laws which exist to rule our country are not only effective, but fair and just. In the circumstances that our country has been stuck in for the past 10 years or more, wherein the law enforcement and police force are constantly facing allegations of injustice against its people, it is with much urgency that steps be taken to hold these accused individuals accountable.