IPCMC is crucial and the time for reform is now
3 December 2019
We refer to the news reports that the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill 2019 will be tabled in Parliament today with 37 new amendments.
The call for the establishment of the IPCMC is neither new or controversial, considering it was one of the 125 recommendations made by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police (RCI), established by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in 2004.
In September this year, we cautiously welcomed the IPCMC Bill and commended the inclusion of several strong provisions, such as giving the IPCMC the power to conduct investigations on its own initiative. However there is still much room for improvement, as it is yet to be seen whether some of the strongest provisions in the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) Act 2009 and the draft IPCMC Bill proposed in the RCI Report in 2005 (2005 Bill), makes it to the final IPCMC Bill.
We detailed these in our memorandum submitted to the government outlining our recommendations, which are based on comparative analysis with other jurisdictions, the EAIC Act 2009 and the 2005 Bill, supported by examples from our experience.
The human costs while the previous government administration sat on the formation of the IPCMC is heartbreaking. LFL have been advocating for the IPCMC and a change in the culture of impunity in the police (PDRM) for many years. Our experience representing victims of police brutality, deaths in custody, shootings and cover-ups leaves no doubt that the IPCMC is necessary to ensure accountability and transparency, to restore public confidence in the police force.
The EAIC while has some positive elements, has been undermined by its limited resources and the fact that it monitors 21 agencies. That 80% of complaints in 2017 to the EAIC are about the PDRM alone demonstrates the need for an independent body to deal specifically with complaints of misconduct against the police. Independence is not taking the complainant’s side, it is the search for truth and the objectivity and impartiality to speak that truth, whichever ‘side’ it seems to favour.
In May this year, the support from the then newly-minted Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador cleared the path to the tabling of the IPCMC Bill, against his predecessor’s stand. It is thus unfortunate that in recent weeks there appears to be a volte-face by the PDRM, who made their objections to the formation of an IPCMC clear during hearings conducted by the Parliamentary Select Committee for Consideration of Bills. Many of the objections disregard the fact that several provisions in the IPCMC Bill are already in the EAIC Act, thus revealing PDRM’s resistance for an independent commission with teeth to investigate serious complaints thoroughly and impartially.
With all these objections, PDRM must answer to all Malaysians whether they are serious about reforming the police force, projecting an efficient, clean and trustworthy image, and serving the people and the nation with integrity and respect for human rights.
In the UK, the Police Complaints Authority formed in 1985 was the result of a compromise against a backdrop of widespread lack of public confidence in the then existing system to handle complaints against the police. More than three decades later, the form of this system would see several changes to the current Independent Office for Police Conduct. No country in the world has a perfect police complaints system, but the difficult first step to setting one up has led to a change in the culture of impunity and restored the image of the police.
The time for reform is now, and the IPCMC must be passed without further delay.
Lawyers for Liberty