KUALA LUMPUR: The death in custody cases have shown a pattern of racial profiling, says retired Court of Appeal judge Mah Weng Kwai.
The former Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner said the statistics on custodial deaths suggested that a section of the population was often targeted.
He told a public forum on the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) bill and police accountability that he had pointed out the matter to Suhakam in the past, but it “did not get much traction”.
“The important thing is that, if you go through the statistics and (study) the race of the deceased persons, there is racial profiling,” he said, without mentioning the ethnicity concerned.
According to human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), there have been 17 cases of custodial deaths this year alone.
M Ramachelvam, chairman of the Bar Council’s law reform and special areas committee, said the current IPCC bill was very broad and would not bring about police accountability.
He said the only way forward would be to amend the bill and table it in Parliament, or withdraw the bill altogether and redraft it to incorporate important provisions to give it “teeth”.
The 2020 IPCC bill, often described as a “watered down” version of its predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill 2005, is said to give the proposed police commission reduced investigative powers.
The IPCC under the 2020 bill is said to be merely a body that makes recommendations to the Police Force Commission and sits under executive control.
Ramachelvam said that at the very minimum, the investigative powers given to the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) under its Act should also be given to the IPCC in its bill.
Asked if he thought the government was averse to a stricter law to oversee the police force, he said Putrajaya appeared to “agree to the form but not the substance”.
Women’s rights activist Ivy Josiah said heading into the 15th general election, politicians must make it part of their manifesto to push for a comprehensive IPCC bill.
“It needs to be made a voter issue so that the public can demand for a police commission.”
She said the government could not wait until the men and women in blue were happy with the law to regulate them, adding that the decision must come from the top.
The IPCC bill was introduced to replace the IPCMC bill that had been tabled in Parliament by the Pakatan Harapan government in 2019. The decision to replace the bill was made by the Cabinet after the change in government in March 2020.