THE Parliamentary Special Committee submitted its report on the IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission) Bill to the government last week. The Bill was on Parliament’s Dec 3 Order Paper. At the last minute, the government deferred the reading to March next year. Why?
A friend recalled that I had said the IPCMC Bill gives less investigative power to the IPCMC than the EAIC (Enforcement Agency Investigation Commission) has. He also recalled I had said that while the EAIC is toothless, the IPCMC is both toothless and limbless. He then wondered if the Bill was deferred because CSOs (civil society organisations) were so critical of it.
It’s hard to answer that question. I can only say that delaying its reading untill March 2020 gives the government an opportunity to fix some glaring gaps in it. I invite you to decide for yourself after reading the following points.
First, the call for an IPCMC was contained in the Police Reform Commission Report of 2005. It received overwhelming support among CSOs. They not only welcomed it, they pressed for it for 14 years. It was included as a manifesto promise by Pakatan Harapan because CSOs demanded it. So it is false to say CSOs do not support an IPCMC.
Second, the Bill tabled in July was NOT the promised IPCMC. It lacked many features of the IPCMC proposed in 2005 by the Reform Commission. Worse, the July Bill gave the IPCMC even less investigative power than the EAIC that had been formed in 2009. Still, CSOs didn’t reject the IPCMC Bill. They asked for changes.
Third, the July Bill received poor response from CSOs because of poor communication on the government’s part. The 2005 draft Bill was supported by data about deficiencies in the police and the extent of public dissatisfaction. No such data was shared with the July Bill. The government didn’t say what data would improve after the IPCMC begins operations.
Fourth, CSOs formed a coalition and gave extensive written (and oral) feedback to the de facto Law Minister, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, at his invitation. Some even wrote individually to the minister. He did not respond in writing to the two submissions I was involved in.
However, he did make some changes. For example, he made provision for handling “minor misconduct” and tightened the process for removing members of the IPCMC. But the focus of the Bill remained discipline, not investigation.
Fifth, with respect to investigations, we are unable to explain what will change in the IPCMC era. Will police officers be barred from investigating cases of police shootings or deaths in police custody? (A must-have!) Note that section 329 of the Criminal Procedure Code mandates that police must investigate deaths in custody and mandates that a coroner must conduct an inquest if no one is charged.
Sixth, CSOs welcomed the handing of the Bill to a Parliamentary Special Committee for refinement. CSOs provided input to the committee and applauded while it held public meetings around the nation to gather feedback. However, the committee report was then placed under an embargo. On Tuesday, CSOs did not know the final content of the Bill. They couldn’t decide how to respond to it!
Seventh, the government didn’t engage CSOs prior to drafting the Bill (for example by calling for lists of “must haves”). After the first reading, the government invited CSOs to attend town hall meetings to point out the Bill’s shortcomings – but at very short notice. At the meetings, no explanation was given for choices already made. The October version of the Bill ignored most of the earlier feedback from CSOs.
The Parliamentary Special Committee’s report should have been made public so CSOs could evaluate the Bill and declare whether or not they support it.
So what do you think? Is “criticism by CSOs” the reason for the delay?
As a bonus, I offer the following about the Parliamentary Special Committee’s report that was released on Wednesday. A quick review shows that the committee accepted some recommendations from CSOs and also from current and former police officers and their organisations.
But there are three glaring gaps. The committee’s report does not make clear who will investigate, from A-Z, grievous hurts and deaths in custody. It just says clarification is needed. It does not address the veil of secrecy over evidence gathered by the IPCMC vs release of the evidence to families by coroners. It does not address the lack of police ranks in the IPCMC (compared with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission).
The committee’s report includes in full the submission from the police via a letter from the Inspector-General of Police dated Nov 20 and an accompanying “Bill of Rights”. Oddly, it does not include submissions from others such as the Malaysian Bar Council, CSOs, Suhakam, academia, etc.
I maintain that the IPCMC fails to meet the core expectations of CSOs who have campaigned for it for 14 years. It is my fervent hope that the glaring gaps will be fixed by March.
Spokesperson for Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (Caged)
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