Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Amnesty for IPCMC - unpalatable but necessary tradeoff

My letter to malaysiakini published today:

I refer to the malaysiakini report Reveal revised IPCMC bill, Pak Lah told. Though 24 NGOs have urged Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to put his money where his mouth is, I bet the PM will continue to drag his heels on the matter.

The embarrassing fact of his deputy internal security minister having the brazen, shameless, nerve to aver that the Attorney-General's Chambers was finalising a report containing some imaginary feedback from the NGOs must surely be an indication of the length to which the PM and the Internal Security Ministry have been willing to go to in order to put off public queries about the IPCMC.

I suspect that the real source of the delaying tactic would be the Royal Malaysian Police. Consider this scary statistic - according to the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), there have been 80 custodial deaths between 2000 and 2004 while only eight inquests were carried out. Has anyone heard of any police personnel being punished since then, except for the bloke who revealed the scandal of the Squatgate abuse?

P Uthayakumar of the Police Watch and Human Rights Committee said: “Monitoring the police force 'from within' has not worked all these years and neither has the Public Complaints Bureau, Disciplinary Unit in the police headquarters, Police Services Commission and Suhakam helped.”

The reality is the police have accumulated so much filth on their records that they have already passed the point of no return. They would now resist at any cost the establishment of an IPCMC. We may take it they would not allow anyone to peep into their conduct for the last 15 years or so, let alone investigate it.

One of the police excuses has been the claim that the IPCMC would not provide them with the necessary due process where a member of their force under investigation would not be able to appeal. However, when DAP’s Lim Guan Eng informed the inspector-general of police (IGP) that he would revise the IPCMC bill to make this process available, according to Lim, the latter made a studious effort to evade the issue.

The police have been so terrified of the IPCMC to an extent that the previous IGP, Mohd Bakri Omar, had the unmitigated nerve to exceed public service ethical boundaries in a private briefing for Umno members of parliament where he 'persuaded' those ‘Yang Berhormats’ into rebelling against the PM on the IPCMC bill.

But we all know that when Bakri retired he did so with full honours and thanks from an effusively grateful PM. Undoubtedly the police resistance has succeeded with a weak PM who is beholden to them.

I believe there may be only one way to cut through the police manipulative barricades against the establishment of the much-needed IPCMC, unpleasant and unpalatable to many of us as this would be.

We have to agree, and inform the police, that the revised IPCMC bill will not only contain a due process for appeals but a clause where the IPCMC will not investigate any alleged police conduct prior to the gazetting of the bill.

In other words, there will be a general amnesty for all police misconduct prior to the establishment of the IPCMC - yes, even those 80 deaths in custody.

That may assure the police that the IPCMC will not be an apparatus to seek vengeance for past misdeeds, and may help persuade them to come to the party for a modern police system.

Unless we trade that off, the IPCMC will never see the light of day, no, not with a PM who lacks the backbone to do the necessary. Yes, some damn rats will slip through but we will at least have the IPCMC for the future, and most importantly, for our children.

It is not a perfect world, but half a loaf would be better than none.

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