KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 – The Bar Council and rights groups such as Suhakam urged the government today to retain the wording from the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill in 2005 that would give the panel actual powers.
They were advocating this over the potential drafting of a new Bill that may dilute the authority of the eventual commission and render it ineffective.
In a press conference today, the Bar Council's IPCMC Task Force chairman Datuk Seri M. Ramachelvam also said it is critical for the Enforcement Authorities Integrity Commission (EAIC) to ensure that the IPCMC Bill has enforcement powers as it is an oversight body.
“The EAIC chairman is reported to have said that the IPCMC will only have investigative powers. If that is so, it is our view that it is doomed to fail,” he said when adding that this was why the agency now was ineffectual.
“You don't have bite. We believe IPCMC must have enforcement powers. That is a prerequisite,” said Ramachelvam.
The original Bill drafted in 2005 was derived in part from the participation of civil society groups and representatives from the Bar Council who had been in the royal commission of inquiry convened then to study police powers.
The RCI had studied similar independent oversight mechanisms from multiple countries including Hong Kong, Canada and Wales.
It proposed granting the IPCMC enforcement powers, but the commission was never realised after the Royal Malaysia Police at the time fought its formation vehemently.
As a compromise, the government formed the EAIC instead which was vested with investigative powers as well as the authority to only “recommend” action against offenders.
The new Pakatan Harapan government has acknowledged the EAIC’s lack of direct authority, leading to the proposal to finally form the IPCMC.
The EAIC was tasked with investigating complaints against 21 enforcement agencies including the police, Rela, Immigration, Customs, and the Fisheries Department among others.
However, 80 per cent of the complaints lodged at EAIC are related to the police.
Ramachelvam argued that the original Bill had taken into account the complaints made by the police.
“The Bar Council took on board those criticisms and comments and reviewed those provisions of the Act. What we felt needed to be amended, fair criticisms, we amended the Bill.
“Those amendments we have sent to the relevant authorities, including the Independent Reforms Commission (IRC) and the EAIC as well who are now looking into the Bill,” said Ramachelvam
Among the amendments made included fair legal representation and allowing the police to go to seek legal redress if they disagreed with IPCMC's decisions.
When asked whether the EAIC was open to adopting the original Bill and updating it, Ramachelvam said the Bar Council and the various stakeholders were unsure.
“To be frank they have not informed us of what that Bill is, all we have been informed is that EAIC have prpared a bill and the bill sent to the Governance Integrity and Anti Corruption Centre (GIACC). We have been further informed that there are some additional powers provided for.
“We are unsure whether the basis of that Bill is the original Bill as drafted by the RCI. It is our unanimous view that any Bill presented as far as IPCMC is concerned, should be based on the Bill drafted by the RCI. We accept improvements on that Bill.
“There should be no dilution of that Bill,” said Ramachelvam.
The latest incarnation of the IPCMC Bill was submitted to the GIACC on November 28 and is currently being studied.
Ramachelvam said the Bar Council and other stakeholders will be consulted before the Bill is tabled in Parliament sometime in March next year.
“I expect the GIACC will send the new Bill to us for consultation in the next two weeks.
“There needs to be extensive consultation if there are substantive amendments. If it was based on the old Bill then most of it has already gone through a lot of amendments. The old Bill has been around for 13 years and most people are already aware of the powers,” he said.