16-member Police Royal Commission and terms of reference send mixed signals that new PM is responding to lack of public confidence in police without giving overwhelming assurance that the commission would not end up like the outrageous Hutton Report which cleared Tony Blair but plunged the British Prime Minister to a new low of credibility
Media Statement on Thaipusam
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The 16-member Police Royal Commission and its terms of reference have sent mixed signals that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is responding to the lack of public confidence in the police without giving overwhelming assurance that the commission would not end up like the outrageous Hutton Report which cleared Tony Blair but plunged the British Prime Minister to a new low of credibility.
Firstly, on the composition. There have been good appointments like Tun Salleh Abas, Tunku Abdul Aziz, Kuthubul Zaman and Ivy Josiah but they are outweighed by more questionable appointees. There are strong questions about whether the appointment of Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah, former Chief Justice, and Tun Mohammad Hanif Omar, former Inspector-General of Police, as Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Royal Commission are appropriate.
Thirty-eight months ago, in December 2000, the nation and the world had high expectations that Malaysia, under Dzaiddin as the new Chief Justice of the Federal Court , would start the difficult but important task to restore public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary, especially as Dzaiddin had courageously declared on assuming the highest judicial office in the land that this would be his first priority.
When Dzaiddin retired in March last year, he did stop the rot in the judiciary which had progressively worsened for the previous 12 years, but he failed in his self-proclaimed task and “first priority” to restore public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of judges, an open and transparent process of judicial appointments and to make the system of justice relevant to the people and the times.
Having failed to fully restore public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary and the system of justice, could Dzaiddin succeed in fully restoring public confidence in the police as the custodian of law and order and protector of democracy and human rights?
Secondly, whether the large membership of 16 members would make it unwieldy and ineffective.
Thirdly, the appointment of Datuk Hamzah Md Rus, the Home Ministry Internal Security and Public Order Division Secretary, as the secretary of the Royal Commission. Without impugning his professionalism or integrity, it is pertinent to ask how the appointment of a top Home Ministry official in the important job as the Commission Secretary would affect the independence and final outcome of the Commission Report – as it is not uncustomary for the secretary of an inquiry commission to be assigned the important task of drafting the commission report, fully reflecting government views and bias.
The terms of reference of the Royal Commission could have been better formulated. It started with the term “to inquire into the role and responsibilities of the police force in enforcing national laws” – when the most critical issues before the Commission are to address the double rise in the crime rate and fear in crime, restore to Malaysians their fundamental right to security and safety in the streets, public spaces and the privacy of their homes and to identity and eliminate police corruption, abuses of power and lack of public accountability, such as deaths from police shootings and police custody.
Why wasn’t the Police Royal Commission given the widest and most comprehensive term of reference, such as “to inquire as to how the police has upheld the Rukunegara principle to maintain a democratic way of life”?
It is within the powers and terms of reference of the Police Royal Commission to examine the role and responsibilities of the police force in the upholding of the Rukunegara principle to maintain a democratic way of life as one of its cardinal objectives. Will the Royal Police Commission make such a declaration at its first working meeting?
The Police Royal Commission should conduct its inquiry in public so as to fully involve all concerned Malaysians and sectors of the civil society.
Although the composition and the terms of reference of the Police Royal Commission could be faulted on many grounds, DAP wishes it well and will give it full co-operation, as Malaysians hope that it could make a real difference in restoring public confidence in the police force to reinstate the fundamental right of Malaysians to security and live without fear of crime and be a bulwark to uphold the Rukunegara principle to maintain a democratic way of life.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman