COMMENT | The decision of the government to postpone the further reading of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill to the next Dewan Rakyat sitting is disappointing, but we must not lose hope.
I urge the government to continue with the IPCMC Bill after further engagement with the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), the opposition, civil society and other stakeholders.
The IPCMC Bill has been a long time coming, as it was first recommended by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police in 2005, now almost 15 years ago.
In May 2019, an agreement was finally reached between the government and the PDRM that it was time for the IPCMC to be established.
The arguments in favour of an independent IPCMC with real power are clear and well established. The vast majority of complaints received by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), which monitors 21 different enforcement agencies, are about the PDRM alone.
In the years that the formation of the IPCMC has been debated, some members of the PDRM have been involved in unlawful fatal shootings, deaths in custody and cover-ups.
Without an independent complaints commission, such serious misconduct went unchecked, dragging down the reputation of the whole force and damaging public confidence in the police. This is unsatisfactory for the public and the majority of the PDRM who are upstanding members of the force.
Little to be gained from repeatedly delaying the bill
It is understandable that both the police and civil society organisations will want to see some changes and amendments, but there is little to be gained from repeatedly delaying the bill when the key elements are there.
The same objections from the police and the opposition and the arguments in favour of the bill have all been raised, debated at length and dealt with before.
The current draft of the IPCMC Bill contains many strong provisions which mirror international standards, including giving the commission the power to conduct investigations on its own initiative, to determine and impose appropriate disciplinary action and to deal with cases involving grievous hurt or death in custody.
It has been reported that 37 amendments have been made following consultations with stakeholders, but these now will not be debated until the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.
The IPCMC need not be a divisive issue. While opposition MPs are keen to support the PDRM, it is not reasonable to assume that the IPCMC would be unfair towards the police or that its formation would be to their detriment.
Police welfare issues and the IPCMC are not mutually exclusive, and one does not undermine the other. In addition to regulating misconduct, the current bill gives the IPCMC the power to advise the government on enhancing the well-being of the police.
The struggle to see the IPCMC become a reality has been going on for many years. While this latest delay may be frustrating, the IPCMC is too important to give up now.
I commend the government for the progress made on this contentious issue and call upon it to carry through the IPCMC Bill so that a new era of accountability, trust and public confidence in the police can begin.
ERIC PAULSEN is the Malaysian representative in the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).
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