DAP calls for another eight Royal Commissions into national unity, education, economic competitiveness, healthcare, media freedom, information society, Parliament and the judiciary to make 2004 a most meaningful year to usher in a new era of accountability, transparency and good governance
2004 New Year Message
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The year 2003 ends with the long-overdue decision to establish a royal commission to review the police force in totality which was announced by the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his first 59 days in office.
Although Abdullah specifically referred to the need to “tackle issues relating to the public perception of the police force” and to eradicate “negative traits” like “police brutality, poor service, corruption”, it is not clear from his speech whether the scope of the royal commission would include jurisdiction to inquire into police corruption, police brutality and deaths in police custody.
As the establishment of a royal commission is not to sweep controversial issues under the carpet, Abdullah should immediately clarify that the royal commission would be empowered to inquire into police corruption, police brutality and deaths in police custody for the past decade – as was the case with the Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1980 – 1989.
In fact, Abdullah should consider establishing two royal commissions to review the police force in totality because of the enormity and complexity ot the tasks involved – one to make recommendations for a modern, professional, competent and responsive police force which could deliver quality world-class police service to reduce crime, the fear of crime and reassure the people about the safety of the streets, public spaces and the homes; and a second to focus on police abuses and misconduct, such as corruption, abuses of power, police brutality and deaths in police custody in the past 10 years.
The time has come for Malaysia to become a normal democratic country, where royal commissions of inquiry, commissions of inquiry and parliamentary inquiries are an important feature of good and democratic governance, playing an important role to solicit informed opinion in the development of public policy and respecting the fundamental right of the public to know about matters affecting the government.
Although the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 (Revised 1973) provides for the establishment of a Royal Commission to enquire into “the conduct or management of any department of the public service of Malaysia”, “the conduct or management of any public institution which is not solely maintained by State funds” or “any other matter in which an enquiry would be for the public welfare”, there had not been any such an inquiry in the past 22 years.
On average, three to five inquiries (whether royal commission, ordinary commission or parliamentary inquiry) should have been initiated each year on various aspects of public policy, whether economic, educational, environmental, social, legal or nation-building – which would mean a sum total of some 60 to 100 inquiry reports on public policy in the past 22 years. It was recently reported that in the 124 years in Canada from 1878-2002, there were some 356 Canadian Health Care Royal Commissions, Commissions of Inquiry and Task Forces, averaging about three a year for the 124 years on healthcare alone – when Malaysia cannot boast of a single Royal Commission of Inquiry or Parliamentary Inquiry into healthcare.
Let Malaysia take a major step in 2004 in becoming a normal country where Royal Commissions of Inquiry and Parliamentary Inquiries are accepted as a centerpiece of democratic good governance.
As 2004 New Year wish, DAP calls for another eight Royal Commissions into national unity, education, economic competitiveness, healthcare, media freedom, information society, Parliament and the judiciary to make 2004 a most meaningful year to usher in a new era of accountability, transparency and good governance.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman