Following the case of C Sugumar, a MIC leader says the time has come for the government to set up the IPCMC and he wants the Bersih chief to spearhead it.
The Malaysian police force’s image was one that had been battered blue and black, with detractors claiming that it was subservient to ruling politicians, corrupted, conducted summary executions of suspected criminals and had no regard for human rights.
Disappointed with the number of such deaths, a MIC leader has called on the government to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
MIC strategic director S Vell Paari was responding to the latest incident where security guard C Sugumar, 40, was supposedly handcuffed, smeared with turmeric powder and beaten to death by policemen and a mob in Serdang.
“No one has the right to take the life of another. Everything else in life you get a second chance except life itself. Once it’s gone it’s gone forever.
“In the case of Sugumar, the police have denied beating him to death and claimed that the post-mortem revealed that he died of a heart attack,” he added.
However, Vell Paari pointed out that the vast majority of Malaysians would not believe the police’s version or a government hospital’s post-mortem findings, given the experiences in the past.
Furthermore, he said there were eyewitnesses who claimed that policemen had handcuffed Sugumar and the deceased was set upon by a mob of more than 20.
“If one conducts an independent survey, it would most certainly reveal that the majority believe the three eyewitnesses’ account rather that the police’s account of what transpired,” he added.
Are cops properly trained?
The MIC leader also questioned what had caused Sugumar’s heart failure and why was turmeric powder smeared on his face.
“This is why an independent post-mortem is important. Are the police using turmeric powder now instead of pepper sprays and other means to subdue suspects due to cuts in the budget?” he said.
Vell Paari questioned the training of policemen, wondering if it was in tandem with a Malaysian society that was now more informed and aware of its rights.
“Malaysians, regardless of their background, are more aware. Remember the YouTube video where an Indian lorry driver lectured a policeman on what he can and cannot say? That shows that our society has evolved but has our police force evolved or is it still trapped in the past?” he said.
“Are our police recruits subjected to psychological evaluation prior to being handed uniforms, batons, handcuffs and guns? These are young blood and when given power, it can go to their heads.
“Power and guns, in the absence of a stable mind, is a lethal concoction,” he added.
In view of this, the MIC leader stressed that forming the IPCMC was imperative so that such cases could be investigated by an independent body and serve as a deterrent.
“I ask the leadership of our country, would you keep quiet if it is your brother, uncle or father who suffers the same fate? Let us take the attitude to do what is right,” he said.
Vell Paari promised to push the leadership of MIC to meet Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in order to establish the IPCMC.
Ambiga the best choice
The MIC leader also suggested that the commission be chaired by Bersih co-chairperson and former Bar Council president S Ambiga.
“For Malaysians to have faith in the IPCMC, it must be headed by a person who is respected by all Malaysians and who is seen as independent. I believe Ambiga fits the bill,” he said.
Contacted later, Ambiga agreed that an IPCMC was needed but felt that she was not the suitable candidate for the top post.
“Of course we need the IPCMC. How many more cases must we see before we appreciate the value of such a commission. They have put in place a watered down version but it has failed to serve its purpose,” she told FMT.
On Vell Paari’s proposal that she heads the commission, Ambiga said: “I truly believe that there are more qualified people who can head it. But the appointment of the commission’s members must be done in consultation with the Bar Council and civil society.”
The IPCMC proposal was the brainchild of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police (2004/05) during the tenure of former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
In a related development, the Malaysian Indian Progressive Association (Mipas) criticised Barisan Nasional Indian politicians for remaining tightlipped on the Sugumar case and various other issues.
“Why are the Indian leaders in MIC, PPP, Gerakan, MIUP, Makkal Sakthi and others keeping quiet on the numerous issues, including the recent racist remarks made by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad?
“Does their silence mean what Mahathir said is true?” asked Mipas secretary-general S Barathidasan, who however commended Vell Paari for speaking up.