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New inspector general of police: Engage with civil society, be different from Khalid Abu Bakar

Former police chief Khalid Abu Bakar - Photograph: sinarharian.com.my

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Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is appalled by the appointment of the former inspector general of police, Khalid Abu Bakar, as Prasarana Malaysia Berhad chairperson and his appointment as the special envoy to enhance relations with the international community in combating terrorism, extremism and human trafficking.

During his term as inspector general of police, Malaysia witnessed a series of back steps with regard to human rights.

During his tenure, human rights defenders, activists and political opponents of Barisan Nasional were subjected to arbitrary detention and arrest with a historic regression where activists and political opponents of the government were detained without trial under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012. The Prevention of Crime Act 1959 was also abused to arrest and detain a known whistleblower on misconduct and corruption within the police ranks.

On top of the abuse of security laws during his tenure, Khalid Abu Bakar himself was known to threaten human rights activists and lawyers on social media. Throughout his tenure, it was common for him to denounce comments made by activists and netizens as seditious and ‘issue’ orders for activists to be investigated on Twitter.

He was also known to make unilateral declarations that certain events are illegal with unsubstantiated allegations. In less than five years, Suaram documented more than 200 cases under the Sedition Act 1948 and more than 300 cases under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

True to his track record when he was the chief of police for Selangor, deaths in custody continued to plague Malaysia throughout the years under his tenure. [Allegations over] the widespread and systematic use of torture and the death of detainees was answered with silence and alleged falsehood by the police. Recommendations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) were also disregarded by Khalid.

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Apart from the active human rights violations perpetrated by the police during his tenure, Khalid Abu Bakar has repeatedly failed to answer for the allegations of his family members’ involvement in the sales of firearms and training centre for handling firearms; the failure to locate and return the children of Indira Gandhi despite court orders; the failure to account for the investigation into 1 Malaysian Development Berhad; the failure to address the issue of enforced disappearances; the failure to curb political violence; and the failure to improve the Royal Malaysian Police with regard to human rights and the rule of law.

Despite the shortcomings, Khalid Abu Bakar is now rewarded with appointment to a government-linked company and appointed as a special envoy to the government. With his questionable track record and the human rights violations perpetrated during his tenure, his appointments will undoubtedly be perceived as a reward by the government and further damage the Malaysian government’s credibility.

With the shortcomings of the outgoing inspector general of police and the human rights violations perpetrated during his tenure, the new inspector general police must make clear commitments to human rights and democracy and remedy the human rights violations set in place.

Suaram calls on the newly appointed inspector general of police to have an open engagement and roundtables with members of the civil society on the human rights issues raised and commit to improving the police force’s commitment to human rights.

Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of Suaram.

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