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Make police complaints commission a legislative priority

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The Malaysian Bar welcomes Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on 21 September 2018 that the existing Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) would be enhanced and converted into an independent police complaints and misconduct commission.

We also welcome Deputy Inspector General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim’s statement, made on the same date, that the government’s decision to form the police complaints commission is in line “with Bukit Aman’s goal of enhancing integrity among its personnel”.

His receptiveness to the establishment of the complaints commission echoes an earlier, similar statement made by Inspector General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun. It is heartening that the police no longer oppose the proposed complaints commission.

The Malaysian Bar has consistently and insistently called for the establishment of the complaints commission, which would operate as an independent, external commission tasked solely to receive and investigate complaints of misconduct and abuse made against the police, ever since its establishment was proposed by a royal commission to enhance the operation and management of the police in its report published in May 2005. A proposed bill for the establishment of the complaints commission was included in the report.

But the government of the day declined to implement this recommendation and instead set up the EAIC instead. One of the observed weaknesses of the EAIC is its slowness in investigating complaints of police misconduct. Although that shortcoming has been mitigated somewhat, a continuing flaw is the EAIC’s inability to ensure that its findings are acted upon by the plethora of law enforcement agencies placed within its purview. This has severely reduced the effectiveness of the EAIC.

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Although 13 years have passed since the complaints commission to oversee only the police was first mooted, the need for it remains as relevant — if not more so — today as it was then. The establishment of the complaints commission must be made a legislative priority of the government in the October 2018 parliamentary sitting.

In this regard, we await details as to how the EAIC Act 2009 will be revised. Rather than amend the EAIC Act 2009, a fresh bill for the establishment of the complaints commission would be preferable and should be tabled without delay.

The Malaysian Bar looks forward to the prompt establishment of the independent police complaints and misconduct commission. We stand ready to lend our expertise to assist the government to make the commission a reality in the very near future. The Malaysian public deserves no less than proper, independent and holistic civilian oversight of, and full accountability by, the police.

George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.

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