©Malaysiakini (Used by permission)
By Claudia Theophilus
Do you want the proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to become a reality?
In a push to realise “what the public wants”, the Bar Council today launched a signature campaign targeting individuals and organisations who want the idea of an independent police watchdog to materialise.
“The signatures will be handed to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,” council chairperson Yeo Yang Poh said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
“Enough has been said but not enough has been done. The police must regain public confidence. People want an independent body to monitor the police.”
The electronic version of the public endorsement will be up on the Bar website by Monday.
The IPCMC, considered the most crucial of the 125 recommendations made by Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police last year, is one of the 24 the police have rejected.
Yeo said that although there was no specific time frame, “the public endorsement will continue until the IPCMC is done”.
“This move is to help the prime minister and government to improve the police force, and this process requires public participation,” he said in explaining the petition.
“By done I mean being passed in Parliament. There is still time till early May.”
The current Parliamentary meeting, the first of the third session, will end on May 4.
The royal commission stipulated May 31 as the deadline for implementing the IPCMC.
In rebutting critics, Yeo said there was no merit in the claims that the IPCMC will turn the police 'lembut' (mellow), lower their morale or single them out for criticism.
“These are misplaced notions. Such a monitoring mechanism will further strengthen a body like the police force which is the single biggest enforcement agency with the widest public interaction.”
He said ordinary people do appreciate good police work and no one denied that there were many good cops.
“There is no need to feel under–appreciated. The IPCMC will actually boost the morale of the good cops and the police force as a whole.”
On the absence of an avenue for appeal, a point raised by the police, he said the Bar fully agreed that an amendment was necessary to include the right to appeal.
“This is the only good point made by the police but it is not a reason to throw out the entire idea. The amendment can be done within a day or two, and we must move on from there.”
He also shot down arguments that the IPCMC will overlap with existing monitoring bodies such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Anti–Corruption Agency (ACA).
“This is highly interesting. By citing Suhakam’s role, the police is actually acknowledging the need for an independent body. It is a recognition of a need for the IPCMC.
“As for the ACA, it deals with corruption. It is not meant nor is adequate to handle this (police affairs).”
The insistence on forming the IPCMC is because the police’s internal mechanism has failed in numerous instances, he said, listing reports on custodial deaths, alleged police assault and abuse in the last 12 months.
“The failure to implement the IPCMC will make a mockery of the work done over the last two years by the police commissions.
“The public will stop believing in the next commission the government sets up,” said Yeo, urging for widest possible media coverage of the public endorsement campaign.
Yeo said the IPCMC is to prevent such cases and provide remedies, something which the prevailing internal mechanism does not achieve.
As part of its outreach, the Council plans to host a public debate within a month where supporters and detractors, including the police and members of Parliament, will be invited to make their case for and against the proposal.
“We have plans to meet the prime minister... probably after May 31. We want to first get the public endorsement going.”
He said they have yet to discuss the specific point on the proposed avenue for appeal with the Attorney–General.
“This issue saw a public airing during the last Malaysian Law Conference where we had agreed that the right to appeal should be included in the IPCMC draft.”
A series of public forum will also be held in KL and a few states to better inform the public.
Council vice–chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan and treasurer Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera were also present.