Friday’s IPCMC Bill offers a short-changed, face-lifted EAIC — Rama Ramanathan

JULY 22 — Over the weekend I read the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Bill which was tabled in Parliament on Friday.

The Bill has the acronym IPCMC, thus allowing it to be mistaken for the IPCMC proposed in 2005 by the Royal Commission to Reform the Police.

The two are not the same.

The 2005 proposal was for a commission which would concern itself with complaints and with misconduct. The 2019 Bill is for a commission which will concern itself with complaints of misconduct.

Crafting of the IPCMC Bill was left to GIACC (“Pusat Governance, Integrity dan Antirasuah Nasional”), led by Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, a former head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

As Abu Kassim knows, one of the reasons MACC has been so successful is that it has “teeth.”

The MACC Act gives massive powers to MACC officers, who are never off-duty. I kid you not. Section 9 of the MACC Act is titled “Officers deemed to be always on duty.”

Section 10(1)(a) gives every MACC officer “all the powers and immunities of a police officer appointed under the Police Act 1967.”

Section 10(4)(b) gives every MACC officer “all the powers conferred on an officer in charge of a police station under any written law, and for such purpose the office of such an officer shall be deemed to be a police station.”

I didn’t make that up!

So, it’s a great disappointment to learn that the IPCMC proposed on Friday has officers who are as limited as officers of the EAIC, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission.

The EAIC, established in 2009, has exhibited lacklustre performance. There are many reasons. I’ll discuss just three of them.

First, the EAIC was designed to fail. In its infancy it had one investigation officer, to receive and investigate complaints of misconduct in 21 agencies.

The EAIC website carries a 2014 news article by the Malay Mail about a report by the international NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report includes this: The [HRW] report noted that EAIC is “thinly staffed” with only one investigator and “insufficient resources” to deal with complaints on police abuse.

“We are being set up to fail if we don’t get the resources to do our job properly,” stated the report quoting an EAIC official.

 Yes, the quote is from a report posted on the EAIC website.

Second, the EAIC was designed with very limited investigation powers — for example the powers required to arrest and detain persons and the powers required to conduct searches and seizures.

Only EAIC officers who are members of a “Task Force” have such powers. The powers are granted by section 17(4) which limits the power to that contained in the Criminal Procedure Code. By contrast, any officer of MACC has these powers, as I pointed out above.

The 2017 EAIC Annual Report notes that one task force was formed in 2017. Its “Terms of Reference” encompass a very wide range of actions including review of procedures and “prepare and distribute a report.” It was led personally by the Chairman of the EAIC.

Third, the EAIC has very poor results.

A mere 546 complaints, across 21 agencies including PDRM, were submitted to the EAIC in 2017! In fact, the 2017 EAIC report says since its establishment the EAIC has received only 2,347 complaints. In 2017 the EAIC investigated only 119 of the complaints it received! (In 2016/17, the figures for England and Wales were 63,000 and 590 allegations.)

The public respects the EAIC because of the public hearings (EAIC Act section 35(2)(a)) it has conducted in cases of deaths in custody. As of December 2017, the EAIC had opened ten investigation papers involving deaths in custody. But, Friday’s Bill has no provision for public hearings.

Strikingly, the annual report does not say how many officers have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings as a result of the hearings. Why? Because the answer is “hardly anyone.

If, on Friday, you heard bad cops cheering, now you know why.

Friday’s Bill proposes an “IPCMC” which falls far short of the 2005 proposal by the Police Commission with respect to scope and powers. Relative to the EAIC, it has some enhancements, but also some reductions. It doesn’t have the powers which make MACC successful.

It is not far off the mark to say the “IPCMC” is the EAIC with a face-lift.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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