Give security of tenure to IPCMC members, just like judges, urges G25

G25 says no honest or professional police officer should fear the IPCMC Bill but certain deficiencies need to be rectified to improve its effectiveness.

PETALING JAYA: The G25 group of former senior civil servants today suggested that those appointed to the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) be given security of tenure, just like judges.

It said this is an important step to improve integrity and to maintain the independence of the IPCMC.

The NGO also suggested that a committee, comprising eminent persons who have held high public office, such as former superior court judges or former senior government legal officers, with a distinguished record and known for their integrity, be established to handle the appointment process.

“It can submit the selected candidates to the prime minister, who shall then recommend the names to the King,” G25 said in a statement.

G25 said this appointment process must be clearly provided to ensure the membership of the IPCMC reflects the diversity of Malaysian society; and that the appointment process is fair, transparent and based on merit.

“In the interest of the independence of the commission, the prime minister should only have a nominal involvement in the appointment of IPCMC commissioners,” it said, noting that the IPCMC Bill provides that the King, on the advice of prime minister, may remove the commissioners at any time.

“As presently drafted, the power to make regulations for the purposes of enforcing the IPCMC Act is vested in the prime minister. We are of the view that the commission should be empowered to make its own regulations, and not the prime minister.

“This will be logical and consistent with the fact that to be an independent body, the commission should have the power to make and amend its regulations from time to time to improve its enforcement framework and keep abreast with new developments.”

G25 said under the Bill, the prime minister is empowered to amend, from time to time, the schedule that provides for the composition of the disciplinary board.

“The schedule is an integral part of the Act. We take the position that only Parliament should have the power to amend the schedule and not the executive.”

The IPCMC Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for a first reading last month but was subsequently referred to a special select committee for further amendments following objections from MPs.

The Bill intends to establish a body to deal with matters concerning the discipline of the police force; notwithstanding the existence of the Police Force Commission that otherwise would deal with such matters.

The special select committee has been holding several sessions throughout the country to gather feedback, including from police officers.

G25 said IPCMC commissioners and officers should have all powers of investigation, as contained in the Criminal Procedure Code, and such powers should be in addition to the powers conferred under the Act.

“Specific sections must be inserted to the Bill to empower the IPCMC to conduct public hearings, summon witnesses, examine witnesses, compel the production of documents, and to provide for the arrest of witnesses, for purposes of investigation and hearings. There must also be a provision for legal representation.

“The IPCMC must not end up being a mere showpiece or a toothless tiger.”

G25 also said witness protection provisions under the Bill were inadequate.

“Anyone who threatens or deters anyone from giving evidence to the IPCMC must be punished heavily. The current proposal is a jail term of two years or a fine of RM10,000, or both. In our opinion, this is inadequate.

“Only if the witness protection framework is clearly spelled out will the public have confidence in lodging reports to the IPCMC.”

G25 said the IPCMC Bill states that any misconduct committed under the police regulations and under the Inspector-General of Police’s Standing Orders is exempted from the IPCMC’s jurisdiction.

“This limitation is, in our view, without good grounds and section 22(2) of the IPCMC Bill providing for the same should be removed. The IGP’s Standing Orders should be made public as it is still classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

“The IPCMC Bill allows the IPCMC to delegate any of its functions and powers to any member of the police force. We are of the view that this delegation provision should be excluded as it adversely affects the independence of the IPCMC.”

Complaints against the IGP

Under the Bill, complaints against the IGP will not be dealt with by the IPCMC. Instead, the complaint will be referred to the chief secretary to government and a special disciplinary board will be constituted.

G25 said the IPCMC should be given the power to handle complaints against the IGP and no special treatment or protection should be given to the IGP under the IPCMC Bill.

“Consistent with the equality before the law provision of the Federal Constitution (Article 8), the IGP must be subjected to the same level of scrutiny as other police officers.”

G25 also said the Bill imposes a duty on the police force to refer cases of grievous hurt or death in custody to the IPCMC but no specific time frame is given. It proposed that police be given 24 hours to refer such cases to IPCMC.

“The Bill also provides for the dissolution of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC). We are of the view that the EAIC must not be immediately dissolved upon the establishment of the IPCMC; not until the proposed Ombudsman is established.

“Otherwise, in the interim period pending the establishment of the Ombudsman, who is to deal with complaints and misconduct against the enforcement agencies that are now under the charge of the EAIC?”

G25 said the current IPCMC Bill contained some ambiguity and weaknesses, all of which must be amended and improved upon by the legislators.

It said more research and consultation sessions with the public and NGOs must be conducted for purposes of improving the Bill.

“The government must not rush through the enactment of the IPCMC Bill and sufficient time must be spent by lawmakers and drafters to debate and to implement corrective measures in order to improve the IPCMC Bill before it is passed.

“It is reported that the Royal Malaysia Police has criticised the Bill as being draconian and discriminatory. We respectfully beg to differ.

“We are of the opinion such apprehension as expressed is unfair and unfounded. On the contrary, we find that the Bill contains many deficiencies. We need to look into these more seriously and improvements must be made for the proposed law to really have more bite.

“Any honest and professional police officer should have no fear of the Bill. On the contrary, the Bill, which is long overdue, should be welcomed.”

G25 said there were 1,800 death in custody cases between 2010 and 2017 and cases of highly-publicised cases of “enforced disappearances” had not been solved.