Bar Council urges automatic investigation of police shootingsKUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — Putrajaya must set up an independent commission to routinely investigate incidents where police officers discharge their firearms, the Bar Council and some politicians have said.
The United Kingdom’s Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which Malaysia’s proposed police oversight Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) is based on, automatically investigates cases where police officers open fire. “Every discharge of a firearm by the police must be justified,” Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
The IPCMC, which was mooted in 2005 by a royal commission chaired by former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah but shot down by the police, was to be modelled on the IPCC, as well as other police oversight bodies in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, and Hong Kong.
Several controversial fatal police shootings have occurred over the past few years, such as the cases of 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah in Shah Alam in 2010; youths Muhammad Hanafi Omar, Muhammad Shamil Hafiz Shapiei and Hairul Nizam Tuah in Glenmarie, Shah Alam in 2010; and 26-year-old D. Dinesh in Ampang last August.
The Malaysian Bar also said last Wednesday that deaths in custody happened once a month on average since 2000, noting that 156 people died in police custody between 2000 and February 2011, while at least six deaths occurred last year and five deaths so far this year.
The latest case is 31-year-old N. Dharmendran, who was beaten to death in police custody last month.
The IPCC investigates all fatal police shootings, as well as deaths in police custody.
UK police officers who discharge their firearms are also required to have their weapons forensically examined. They are temporarily suspended from operational duty until investigators and the officers’ senior commanders decide to allow them to return to duty.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) would investigate Dharmendran’s death.
Another former Chief Justice, Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, however, said last Monday that the EAIC has only taken disciplinary action in one case since its establishment in April 2011.
The former top judge said that the EAIC had received 347 complaints, with 110 rejected, while nine were referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), four to the relevant disciplinary bodies, while 149 needed more investigation. Only 60 of the 347 cases were referred for a full investigation.
Abdul Hamid also noted that the EAIC only had a budget of RM14 million for the past two years.
The EAIC said last October that it could not initiate investigations unless a complaint was lodged.
New Zealand’s Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), however, automatically investigates incidents where the police cause death or serious bodily harm.
Former Transparency-International Malaysia (TI-M) president Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said yesterday that an independent commission should similarly investigate all police-related deaths without waiting for complaints to be lodged.
“No point delaying further because it’s eroding public confidence in the police,” Navaratnam told The Malaysian Insider.
Leong stressed that the IPCMC, which should be able to investigate complaints independently and to impose disciplinary action on the police, needed to be set up as the EAIC did not have such powers.
“The EAIC may only investigate and make recommendations after its investigation to the disciplinary authority of the relevant enforcement agency for the latter to thereafter conduct their own inquiry,” said the lawyer.
A minister, who did not want to be named, also agreed that incidents of police officers discharging their firearms should be investigated automatically, telling The Malaysian Insider: “That can be something we can look into.”
MIC strategic director S. Vell Paari said that it was high time to set up the IPCMC, highlighting the frequent deaths in custody.
“Because of all this custody deaths, public confidence in the police day after day is deteriorating,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
He added that police shootings should be routinely investigated, saying: “There could be valid reasons for discharging firearms, but they should be investigated.”
DAP adviser and Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang echoed Vell Paari’s call, saying that the IPCMC should submit an annual report to Parliament.