Pak Lah's credibility and resolve is being challenged at the moment on at least two fronts; the police force (PDRM) and his predecessor. The latter is merely politics, and as a (wannabe) democratic society we must just tolerate it. The former, in my opinion, is something far more ominous and must be dealt with.
PDRM is exhibiting an alarming level of stubbornness and, in my opinion, insubordination with their reaction to Parliament's, cabinet's, and indeed the rakyat's will with regards to the IPCMC proposal. While it is desirable in an open society for viewpoints to be voiced and debated by all stakeholders in the interest of formulating the right policies, like all things there are exceptions.
PDRM has a unique and important role in Malaysia; the role of law enforcement is an important one, and it is surely an awesome responsibility. A part of that responsibility is providing a sense of reliability and continuity with regards to the safety of all residents. Any kind of disruptive behaviour is the very anti-thesis of continuity.
Threatening to swing votes en masse is an example of the kind of disruptive, highly improper and dangerous gesturing that PDRM has indulged in. Let us put this in perspective: if instead of PDRM it were the armed forces who were posturing in this manner, how would we feel about it? I believe something must be done swiftly and firmly to quell the overt high-level dissension in PDRM for the sake of restoring a sense of reliability and continuity for all residents.
I do not wish to insinuate that individual PDRM officers are dangerous and not to be trusted, however, as is always the case, a group of well-meaning (and underpaid) people who are just trying to do their job and, without the benefit of hindsight, may fail to see the impact of what they are doing as a whole (not that they would have much influence on the whole anyway). When the whole is responsible for law enforcement, we must be especially cautious.
So what can Pak Lah do? I propose that now is the perfect time to repeal the Emergency Public Order and Prevention of Crime Ordinance, more commonly known as the Emergency Ordinance.
The ordinance has been exploited for the sake of expediency many times by law enforcement bodies, including PDRM. Many arguments have been made for the ordinance to be repealed by civil society, in particular human rights groups including Suhakam, and yet nothing has been done.
However, in the spirit of realpolitik, there are several reasons that the move would be of direct immediate benefit to Pak Lah:
- It serves as a stinging reminder to PDRM of whom they serve (the rakyat) and the manner in which they are meant to conduct themselves.
- It would be the first significant reform of Pak Lah's administration - certainly something he needs to do in order to avoid retiring as a 'lame duck'.
- It would pull the rug right out from under he who preceded Pak Lah - such a move would indeed be evidence of backbone!
To elaborate a little on point (i), I believe the move will force our law enforcement agencies to refocus on their core charge and reform their conduct and behaviour (not as individuals, but as a unit). The Emergency Ordinance provides short-cuts in the execution of law enforcement, and some of PDRM's resistance to the IPCMC proposal must be attributed to concern that instances of short-cuts could be given unprecedented media coverage should a watchdog with some shred of independence be brought into existence.
Backing down on the IPCMC proposal would achieve absolutely nothing; it would be yet another instance of Pak Lah's lack of vision and leadership. Instead, the opposite is required; he must up the ante and remove outright the ordinance.
This move will guarantee Pak Lah a place in the memories of current and future generations, for it will indicate a significant turning point in the history of our society. I hope he will be able to summon the courage - and the backbone - to do what needs to be done.
Pak Lah, repeal the Emergency Ordinance now, for a better Malaysia, and a better legacy.