PETALING JAYA: With those helming the home ministry unchanged in Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Cabinet, stakeholders say the ministry must have serious police and immigration reform on the agenda for their second stint.
In his televised address on the new Cabinet line-up, Ismail announced the retention of Hamzah Zainudin as the home minister, along with Ismail Mohamed Said and Jonathan Yassin as the deputies.
K Ganesh, the lawyer representing the family of A Ganapathy, who died in hospital after months in police custody, said Hamzah must implement serious reform to regulate an “out-of-control” police force.
“There needs to be a body to police the police,” he told FMT.
“They act with impunity because they believe they are untouchable, we’ve seen it time and time again. The police can be rude to people, they can abuse people, they can preside over deaths, and yet nobody is held accountable.”
Ganesh said a body similar to that outlined in the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) bill should be established with the power to summon police for investigation.
“It cannot be a toothless tiger. The body must have the power to seize the CCTV footage of a station when a death in custody occurs, for example, or haul up the district police chief for questioning if a death occurs on their watch.”
Adrian Pereira, director of rights group North-South Initiative, said the government must take a serious look at the treatment of migrants.
“There must be a moratorium on arrests and detention of migrants until there is a much higher vaccination rate,” he said, in light of detention centres being hotbeds for transmission during the pandemic.
Pereira said the home ministry must relinquish its role in labour migration to the human resources ministry, as allowing it to grant entry and act as an enforcement agency creates a conflict of interest and can result in abuse of power.
He also called for the ministry to freeze the issuance of “check-out memos” until disputes between a worker and an employee are settled, as matters like withheld pay are difficult to contest for migrants once the memo has been issued.
Melinda Anne Sharlini, programme director of Family Frontiers, said there is an urgent need for the ministry to review laws that pertain to families of parents with different nationalities.
“The ministry must address the inequalities in the way Malaysian citizenship laws are interpreted, especially in ensuring that Malaysian women are not denied the right to confer citizenship on their overseas-born children by operation of law.
“Covid-19 border closures and travel restrictions have seen many children left without Malaysian citizenship because their Malaysian mothers cannot return home to give birth,” she said.