IPCMC won’t curb IGP’s powers, says Bar Council man

PETALING JAYA: A member of a Bar Council panel, M Ramachelvam, has denied that the Inspector-General of Police would have his powers curtailed by the proposed formation of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

He rebuffed an assertion by retired police officers that the new commission would offend the Police Act or the Federal Constitution.

Ramachelvam, who is co-chair of the Bar Council’s taskforce on the IPCMC and police accountability, said the chain of command in the police force would not be compromised. It was only the investigation and disciplinary functions now with the Police Force Commission that would be placed in the IPCMC.

“Article 140 of the Federal Constitution also clearly states that Parliament has the power to pass laws in respect of disciplinary matters for the police force. Therefore the police force would have to abide by the law establishing IPCMC,” he added.

Earlier, retired police officer Mohd Ismail Che Rus objected to the federal government’s intention of forming the IPCMC. He contended that the IPCMC clearly took over the functions and roles of the Police Commission. It also went against Section 4 of the Police Act that the police force shall be under the command of the inspector-general of police, responsible to the minister of home affairs for the control and direction of the police.

M Ramachelvam.

(The Police Force Commission has oversight over the police force, and is responsible for service matters such as appointments and transfers, as well as discipline.)

Mohd Ismail, who is president of the Retired Senior Police Officers Association of Malaysia, argued that the police did not need an outside body for disciplinary matters as it would jeopardise the powers of the IGP. The IPCMC also contradicted the Police Act by being imbued with power to take over investigations from the IGP and also having the power to order an immediate stop of any investigation being carried out by the police force.

Ramachelvam disagreed. He told FMT that the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission, similarly an independent commission, already carried out investigations into complaints about misconduct of police personnel.

He pointed to the ineffectiveness of the current system represented by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993, and the Integrity and Standards Compliance Department in the police force.

They had failed to deal with serious issues such as police accountability, abuse of power, corruption, deaths in custody, police brutality and police inaction.

“The system does not work because the police cannot and should not police themselves. There is no trust in the present system. The public perception is that the present system is self serving , protects vested interest and does not serve the public interest,” he said.

He said the Bar Council task force had already submitted amendments to the IPCMC Bill to deal with most of the concerns of certain factions of the police.

These included the right to legal representation, the right to remain silent, the solicitor-client privilege (where a lawyer cannot be compelled to disclose information given by a client) and the right to appeal against decisions of the IPCMC.

He said that the IPCMC would only enhance the stature and the standing of the Royal Malaysia Police. “Upright and law abiding police personnel have nothing to fear from the IPCMC.”

Formation of the IPCMC was recommended in the Dzaiddin Report of a royal commission of inquiry in 2005.