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Excessive and outrageous killing by the police

I refer to the tragedy of 22-year old Pua Bee Chun who was mercilessly mowed down by the police.

Whatever the reason for the police action, it was obviously excessive, as well as outrageous, to gun down a young woman without any criminal record. We now have a situation rather similar to the tragedy of 15-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah.

In both cases, the police shot to kill, without caring who they were shooting, and to only consider the consequences subsequently, in full confidence they would be ‘teflonised'.

In Pua's case, we read that police had even misappropriated CCTV tapes from houses in the incident area to delete their recordings. This itself is a criminal offence.

We arrive at the same question for the shooting of Pua as we did for that of Aminulrasyid - was the shooting by the police necessary?

I believe both would, in the general sense, be considered as reckless, trigger-happy police actions, where our worrying concerns are that the police involved considered and, frighteningly, may still consider shooting as a convenient end to a process, with total disregard for public safety.

Shoot first, ask questions later - scarily, it seems that's the police way.

Deaths as a result of police shooting (following car chases and/or other incidents) and deaths in police custody have commonality in that both situations reflect on questionable police process, most as yet unanswered or fully accounted for.

In 2007, Siti Norma Yaakob, then the Chief Judge of Malaya, expressed her deep concerns that 80 deaths in police custody occurred between January 2000 and December 2004, but only six inquests, less than 10 percent of the deaths, were even held.

Siti Norma's figures tells us of an average of 20 people in police custody dying each year during that period, or almost a horrendous two deaths per month for four continuous years. The Indians have been said to bear the brunt of that statistic.

The former chief judge was troubled that in some instances, deaths occurred mere hours after detention. As an example, mechanic Alias Othman was detained at 10 pm on March 22, allegedly for causing a disturbance at a mosque in Bachok, Kelantan, but just five hours later, he was dead. Siti Norma wanted answers why so many people perished under such circumstances.

She demanded to know why the police had seen it fit to decide that inquests were not necessary in 22 cases of such deaths. In fact, the Criminal Procedure Code specifically makes it mandatory to have inquests into deaths under police custody.

Yet the IGP at that time had not addressed this unacceptable omission, a violation of the Criminal Procedure Code. That IGP should have been held responsible and accountable for his failure. Was he?

And until the inspector-general of police (IGP) is made answerable, we are likely to continue adding on to the list of names of C Sumumaram, A Kugan, F Udayappan, Alias Othman, and many others, and since the MACC can be considered in many ways similar to the police, the names of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sabani Mohamad as well.

There appears to be, within the police force, a regrettable sense of invulnerability and non-accountability - a lamentable ‘siapa raja' mentality.

I believe the axiom generally applicable here would be 'there is no bad soldier but bad officers', which leads us to both the home minister and the IGP, especially the latter.

An independently manned Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) is the answer, where 'independent-manned' means we can do without any Barisan Nasional (BN) members, cronies or tame civil servants, current or retired ones, sitting in the commission.

The short and lamentable history of the IPCMC shows questionable police understanding of and respect for the democratic process, with a former IGP Mohd Bakri Omar demonstrating mutinous insubordination to then Prime Minister (PM) Ahmad Abdullah Badawi. That former IGP went to the extent of bypassing the PM to brief Umno members of parliament with a dire threat that if the IPCMC was established, he and his force could not ensure the BN's position in power.

On March 30, 2006, then Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang made a press statement as follows:

"As the prime minister had publicly made a commitment to accept the Royal Police Commission and establish the IPCMC, Bakri has committed the grave offence of insubordination and defiance of authority of the prime minister in publicly declaring that the police had rejected the IPCMC proposal and 24 other proposals.

"The acceptance or otherwise of the IPCMC and the other 24 other proposals of the Royal Police Commission is a policy issue to be decided by the prime minister, cabinet and Parliament and not by the police or any government department or service, unless Malaysia has become a police state.

"If Bakri is not prepared to accept the authority of the prime minister, cabinet and Parliament to decide on the policy issue on the IPCMC and the other Royal Police Commission recommendations, then the only honourable way out for him is to resign as IGP to express his opposition and not to be guilty of insubordination by wearing the uniform of the IGP to openly go against the authority of the prime minister and cabinet - setting a dangerous precedent undermining the important principle in a parliamentary democracy that the public service, including the police, must be subject to civilian oversight, accountability and authority."

Did the IGP? No! And the worst was yet to follow.

When he retired, PM Abdullah unbelievably lauded Bakri as one of the most efficient leaders who brought the police force to greater heights.

Yes, unbelievable but true!

And, methinks, that sums up why the police in general possess the ‘siapa raja' mentality.

Frighteningly, it seems from these recollections that the police force and its leaders have gone almost rogue. Of course, not every policeman is a rogue (nor every of its IGPs) but the worrying observation is its previous three IGPs have not earned the respect and confidence of the public, much as the former PM Abdullah might have praised his insubordinate subordinate.

Now, much as Mohammad Hanif Omar has recently been criticised for his silliness in his communist-behind-every-bush, I still see him, during his tenure as IGP, as one of Malaysia's best IGPs, if not the best. Apart from the IPCMC, that's the sort of classy IGP and other police departmental leaders we need today.