The Royal Police Commission's report in 2004 outlining suggestions for the police force was received with praise from all quarters, which is indicative of the widespread support amongst the electorate.
Now that the fanfare has died, it is imperative that the single most important recommendation made in the report be implemented. I refer, of course, to the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
I am shocked and dismayed by the negative reaction of some MPs and other politicians towards the establishment of the IPCMC. The rhetoric they have employed is weak and simplistic.
First, the suggestion that Suhakam, the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) represent sufficient checks and balances on the police force is fallacious. As an example, the inspector-general of police recently announced a directive for all female police officers, irrespective of their faith, to wear the tudung at all official functions.
At best this imposition is an act of total insensitivity, at worst a violation of fundamental rights. This directive would not have been issued if Suhakam carried sufficient influence over the police force. As its name suggests, the ACA is only tasked with preventing and prosecuting corruption within the civil service; the ACA also lacks transparency as it is only accountable to the prime minister.
As for the efficacy of the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB), the chairman of the Backbencher's Club (BBC), Shahrir Samad, has said that a complaint he himself lodged years ago has resulted in no outcome to date.
Second, the suggestion that the police force will be demoralised by the establishment of the IPCMC is not necessarily indicative of problems within the concept itself. What this notion demonstrates is that there is ignorance, shockingly even amongst MPs, about what the IPCMC represents.
Third, Umno Youth information chief Azimi Daim stated recently the fear that the formation of IPCMC will be turned into an avenue by certain quarters to expose the weakness in the country's administration. I can only ask how our leaders are supposed to address any real weaknesses if they are forced to remain blind to them.
Rather than clarifying misconceptions, those politicians who have framed their arguments in such flimsy contexts have only served to compound ignorance about the IPCMC. It now comes as no great surprise that the inspector-general of police himself has now stated that the police have rejected the IPCMC.
As a concept, the IPCMC is modeled on international best practices. Unlike the ACA, the IPCMC is answerable to Parliament. This emphasis on transparency and accountability resolves the concern amongst some that the wide powers accorded to the IPCMC may be misused by criminals or other unscrupulous parties to victimise the police force .
The harsh reality is that the Malaysian police force is today viewed as corrupt, inefficient and abusive. It is a positive step that senior officers were recently sent for a human rights course. However, preventing the establishment of the IPCMC will do nothing to change the prevailing public perception of the police.
Indeed, the IPCMC will ensure that the reputation of the police will no longer be tainted by improper conduct or false accusations. Thus the IPCMC should be viewed as the greatest opportunity for the police to regain the trust and confidence of the Malaysian people.
As we all know, the primary duty of an MP is to represent the interests of the citizens of Malaysia and to ensure that the principles of the social contract between government and citizens are upheld. We, as citizens, and civil society groups must make clear to our elected representatives in Parliament that we support the establishment of the IPCMC as it places an emphasis on accountability and transparency which is imperative for truth and justice to prevail.