On the ‘civil society engagement’ on IPCMC bill

CAGED is surprised by a news report in FMT of a press conference given by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong after a meeting which CAGED attended.

The meeting was called by the minister. The subject was the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct (IPCMC) Bill. The purpose was for invitees to be briefed about the bill and to discuss it together.

The invitees covered a broad spectrum of people. Attendees included MPs, senators, political aides, statutory bodies and NGOs.

At the meeting, a representative of GIACC (Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre), gave a 20-minute presentation. He gave an overview of the bill. He “debunked” some criticism of the bill. He said stakeholders had been consulted during the drafting of the bill. The NGO attendees, who had campaigned for an IPCMC for years, disputed this.

His presentation was followed by a two-hour session titled “Question and Answer”. However, the minister proposed, and attendees agreed, that we would instead go through the bill part by part, with all invitees giving comments on each clause.

The minister promised to give responses at a later date.

Deferring the answers was a good decision because we had a mere two hours to comment on the 10 parts and 60 clauses of the bill.

Over the two hours, attendees made both general and specific comments. By “specific” we mean comments which can be connected to one of the 10 parts or 60 clauses.

Attendees made comments about all the 10 parts. CAGED is therefore surprised at this sentence in the news report: “Liew said less than 10% of the 60 clauses in the draft bill was brought up for discussion by the groups.”

If the minister said that in response to a question from the media, then it may be correct. However, it gives the horribly wrong impression that attendees were happy with 90% of the bill.

CAGED hopes the minister added that 100% of the 10 parts in the draft bill was brought up. (We’ll assume the report chose not to include this.)

The report also called the meeting an “engagement with civil society”. CAGED does not know whether that was the publication’s choice or the minister’s.

Here CAGED wants to touch on a larger problem with the bill, one which cannot be neatly attached to a part or a clause in the bill. We want to touch on what “engagement with civil society” should be.

In “Buku Harapan: Fulfilling our Hopes”, the Pakatan Harapan GE14 election manifesto, the now-ruling coalition included this in Promise 16:

“To ensure that the people and all stakeholders can be engaged in the policymaking process, the Pakatan Harapan government will start the culture of producing Green Papers so that we can stimulate discussions” (Page 46).

Notice the word “engaged”. CAGED’s biggest criticism of the bill is that it was tabled in Parliament before all stakeholders were engaged via a Green Paper. CAGED’s biggest criticism of the “engagement” is that it was not discussion of a Green Paper.

NGO attendees pointed this out at the meeting, because if a Green Paper had been produced, the “engagement” would have been about whether the bill should adopt, for the IPCMC, the Police (Dzaiddin) Commission model (2005), the MACC (2009) model or the EAIC (2009) model, etc.

The discussion would also have been about (1) the types of reform needed in the police force and the scope of the IPCMC, (2) the successes and failures of the EAIC (Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission) which has a 10-year track record and is to morph into the IPCMC and (3) other models from inside and outside Malaysia.

What is a Green Paper? CAGED cannot provide a better answer than what appears on the website of Shepherd-Wedderburn, a UK-law firm:

“In a policy timeline the Green Paper is the first step towards legislation. Its purpose is to create debate on policy without actually committing to any specific action. Stakeholders and the public will be invited to comment on the Green Paper. Each Green Paper will contain several alternative policies, which will be discussed before a final decision is made.”

CAGED believes it is not too late for the government to produce a Green Paper, because the objective is to find the right solution to the right problem, not to bulldoze the bill through.

CAGED hopes GIACC, which flies the flag for integrity, and the minister, will take this opportunity to establish a good example of consultation with stakeholders.

CAGED believes that people of integrity must honour promises and reform the policymaking process while drafting legislation to reform and restore integrity to the police service.

Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED) is a civil society group.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.