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Our Home Minister and the police force

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Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein has spoken out against criticising of the police force. But one cannot turn a blind eye to the reputation the force has brought upon itself, says Ms Batik.


Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has spoken out against criticising the police force. “If these attacks continue, how can we teach the younger generation about nationhood?” he apparently asked at a Warriors Remembrance Dinner organised by the Ex-Policemen’s Association of Malaysia recently (theSun, 5 July 2010).

What has criticising the police got to do with teaching the younger generation about nationhood?  Has the man lost the plot completely? While not belittling the efforts put in by our police force to fight crime and acknowledging the many difficulties the police force faces in terms of inadequate personnel, funding etc., one cannot turn a blind eye to the reputation the police force has brought upon itself. In a written parliamentary reply recently, the Home Minister himself revealed that a total of 279 suspects had been shot dead by the police between 2000 and 2009, while 147 died in police lockups during the same period (Malaysiakini, 28 June 2010). And let’s not even go into allegations of corruption and cover-ups. The Home Minister cannot expect the public to keep quiet if they know and feel that something is wrong with PDRM.

Perhaps the Home Minister might consider this: “One of the most elementary requirements for public confidence in the police force is a trust in the fact that members of the service will be accountable should they mistreat citizens or their public responsibility….. And the best way of generating that confidence is to convince people that in the case of grievances, there is a speedy, effective and independent mechanism for getting it remedied” (Police and Human Rights: A Manual for Training Police. Danish Inst. of Human Rights). Our country had a chance at this but the lack of political will to implement the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) put an abrupt stop to this endeavour.

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Improving the police force is not just a Malaysian concern. In the United Kingdom (UK), the Human Rights Act 1998 brought the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) into UK law in 2000 (www.warwickshire.police.uk). “The Act makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right. Police officers are “public authorities” for the purposes of the Act because their role includes certain public duties.  Six principles applicable to each area of policing to reach compliance with Human Rights were identified:

1. LEGALITY – is there a legal basis for police actions? Is that legal basis in statute, regulations, case law and is it available to a member of the public?

2. PROPORTIONALITY – can the police demonstrate that actions taken were “proportionate” to the threat or problem it sought to prevent?

3. RELEVANCE/NECESSITY – was the police action strictly relevant to the particular threat/problem.

4. SUBSIDIARITY – was the police action the least “force/intrusive” available?

5. EQUALITY OF ARMS – in any trial process did the defendant have the same information and access to information as the police/prosecution?

6. REMEDY – is there an independent public remedy available to the citizen?

The article at the website ends with the line “Your decisions and those of the officers you supervise are liable to be tested against these criteria to ensure compliance with human rights.”

Now why can’t we do something like this here, Home Minister? Take courage and have some backbone for there will be no lack of ideas as to how to reform PDRM and you can be assured of public support.

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Don’t worry about teaching the younger generation about nationhood. But if you feel you must worry, then worry about the current examples being set by your government – for our young people learn by example!

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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