by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Petaling Jaya
on Thursday, 9th January 1997

Call for an Police Ombudsman with independent powers to investigate complaints against police bias and abuses to maintain public confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the Police Force

The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor yesterday called on all State police headquarters to act swiftly and efficiently on all reports lodged.

He directed State police chiefs to remind their men to have a sense of urgency when investigating complaints which need prompt action and to check on officers taking the easy way out.

He said that investigations should be carried out swiftly and properly, irrespective of whether they were traffic, dadah or criminal cases.

While this reminder by the IGP is proper and timely, such a call is not likely to bring about any radical change either in police methods or public perceptions, unless the Police is prepared to address the issues behind the recent controversy over the Tribunal Rakyat proposed by certain NGOs to discuss abuse of police powers.

I agree that the choice of the term “Tribunal” for the purpose of the meeting to discuss abuse of police powers is improper, not because it is “Marxist” or for any other baseless conspiratorial theory, but because it implies a pre-judgement of guilt.

In the event, this wrong choice of the term “Tribunal” allowed the Police to launch a counter-offensive against the motives of the organisers and to deflect the real issues involved.

It is most unfortunate that in attacking the holding of a Tribunal Rakyat on abuse of police powers, the Police authorities had not been prepared to enter into a dialogue with the NGOs concerned to discuss the very real complaints about abuses of police powers especially in dealing with certain political and socio-economic situations.

In September 1995, I had submitted to the Inspector-General of Police six charges of police bias when investigating government leaders and police officers as compared to opposition leaders, and I cannot say that the police had given satisfactory accounting to these charges.

One of these charges referred to the case of DAPSY National Secretary, Ronnie Liu, on Sept. 18, 1995, who was trying to intercede on behalf of the squatters of Taman Aman, Petaling Jaya whose houses were being demolished for the LRT project by asking whether the FRU had the legal authority to enforce the demolition exercise. Ronnie, who was unarmed, was brutally assaulted with batons and kicked by the FRU in public.

A blood-splattered Ronnie Liu was seriously wounded, sustaining a head injury, and was even hand-cuffed when sent to Universiti Hospital for treatment.

Another victim of FRU brutality at the time was the Parti Rakyat Malaysia President, Syed Husin Ali.

Although Ronnie Liu had lodged a police report on the FRU brutality, the Police has taken no action whatsoever although it is now more than 15 months since the incident. I had raised the issue in Parliament several times and the only answer is that “Police investigations are still going on”.

The NGOs who had wanted to highlight police abuses of power would have their list of such examples, and unless such cases are fully addressed by the Police, the call by Tan Sri Rahim that all police reports should be treated with a sense of urgency would sound nothing more than a “Public Relations” exercise.

The inaction so far by the Police to charge Barisan Nasional youth leaders who broke up the Second Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET II) in early November is another minus point for public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the Police.

All Malaysians concede that the Malaysian Police have generally done a good job both in protecting life and property as well as upholding law and order. This is why I had always called for improvement in salaries and working conditions for the members of the Police Force so that they could do an even better job.

However, the Police must be conscious and aware not only of “black sheep” in the police force, but also of cases of police abuses and bias which, if not addressed, would undermine public confidence in the professionalism of the police force.

It is clear that the present mechanisms in the Police Force are incapable of dealing with complaints against police bias and abuses of power.

For this reason, I call for the appointment of an Police Ombudsman with independent powers to investigate complaints against police bias and abuses of power, which would contribute to greater public confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the Police Force.