Sunday, August 17, 2014

'Meeting IGP's men worse than in repressive nations'


'Meeting IGP's men worse than in repressive nations'

A top human right activist has described what was supposed to be scheduled encounter with IGP Khalid Abu Bakar to discuss human rights violations as the "worst meeting with any government official" he had experienced.

Human Rights Watch Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson said he was to meet with Khalid (right) in April over his NGO's report entitled ‘No Answers, No Apology - Police Abuses and Accountability in Malaysia’.

"Arriving at the appointed time at his office in Bukit Aman for the meeting, I was instead met with a phalanx of six of his senior aides who proceeded to attack the report as 'biased' and Human Rights Watch as 'unprofessional'.

"My efforts to discuss the findings and recommendations, or at least discern from them what parts of the report they considered to be factually wrong, went for naught," he related at a Kuala Lumpur forum on police accountability yesterday.

Robertson said it was "by far and away the worst meeting with any government official" in his five years working for Human Rights Watch.

"And that includes meetings with representatives of governments of Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and other rights-repressive states," he said.

He said the senior cops were not prepared to listen to suggestions on reform in the police force.

"They have the power in their tower over in Bukit Aman and anyone who disagrees with them had better stand aside," he said.

IPCMC may never come to pass

Robertson described this experience as among the reasons why the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) could never come to pass.

He said it represented an abject lack of political will and leadership from the top level of the police for reform.

Likewise, Robertson said this is also reflected in the government, highlighting a tape recording which caught Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi declaring to supporters that police should "shoot first" when dealing with criminals.

"A man who advocates for such a position is not suitable to be Malaysia's top law enforcement official," he said.

Bar Council president Christopher Leong (left) who delivered a speech at the forum said the Putrajaya needed to acknowledge that the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) has been a failure in addressing police misconduct.

Leong said it was now apparent that the EAIC, a watered-down version of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), was designed to fail.

"The Malaysian Bar urges the government to acknowledge the EAIC's failure to address the challenges faced by the police and the very serious concerns of the public, and to revive the initiative for the establishment of the IPCMC.

"There should be no more dithering, delays or excuses. The IPCMC remains as relevant today as it was when the Royal Commission's (to enhance the operation and management of the royal Malaysian police) report was released in 2005," he said.

'One death every three weeks'

Leong pointed out that government figures showed there were 231 deaths in custody between 2000 to May 2013, which was an average of one death every three weeks.

"This is a damning indictment of the police. It harms the very soul of Malaysian society that lives have been lost under the supervision of the very officers who have the duty to protect and serve the public," he said.

Noting that the initial implementation of IPCMC had failed due to fierce police opposition, Leong said the police force should not fear the oversight body if it is aspiring to be a world-class professional and disciplined force.

"There is no reason for the police to be resistant to the proposed IPCMC. It must be courageous enough to submit itself to an independent external oversight commission that is dedicated to the police force," he said.

Unlike the IPCMC, the EAIC is an oversight body which is not specific to the police as it covers 19 different enforcement agencies and can only recommend disciplinary action, which does not necessarily have to be accepted.                      

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