Cabinet on Wednesday should announce whistleblowers protection guarantee, suspension of OSA and immunity from departmental victimization or prosecution for witnesses, whether serving or retired police or public, testifying before the Police Royal Commission about police corruption and misconduct
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Police Royal Commission announced by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has raised public expectations that there will be a total revamp of the culture, works ethics and commitment of the police force to rebuild public confidence in a modern, professional, competent and responsive police force and to stop the over a decade-long deterioration and to start enhancing the Public Safety Index.
The Malaysian Quality of Life 2002 Report issued by the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department last year analyzed the progress and trends in national development for the period 1990 to 2000, using 1990 as the base year. The Malaysian Quality of Life Index (MQLI 2000), which is based on eleven areas, found that except for public safety, all other areas improved, with working life and housing recording the most significant increases of 19.1 points and 16.3 points respectively. In contrast, the Public Safety Index fell by 16.01 points during the ten-year span.
The Public Safety Index is measured by two sub-indices: - (i) crimes per thousand population and (ii) road accidents per thousand vehicles. The crime rate increased from 3.8 in 1990 to 7.1 in 2000 with more than four-fifths of the crimes related to property. Road accidents per thousand vehicles increased from 19.4 in 1990 to 21 in 2000. Almost half of the road accidents involved motor-cycles.
In the past three years since the MQLI 2000, both sub-indices of the Public Safety Index had worsened considerably, marked on the one hand by the double rise in crime rate and the fear of crime where Malaysians had lost their most basic human right to security and to live without fear about their safety and that of their loved ones, whether in the streets, public places or in the privacy of their homes. On the other hand, the high incidence of road accidents, fatalities and injuries have made Malaysia one of the most dangerous countries in the world in terms of road safety.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin said in Taiping yesterday that Abdullah would name the panel members of the Police Royal Commission soon, and that those chosen would be experts in law and order, social activities, welfare, drugs and policing, among others.
Malaysians who fully support Abdullah’s establishment of a Police Royal Commission of Inquiry are very concerned that Malaysia should learn from the mistakes of other countries which had given Royal Commissions a bad name, as Royal Commissions had been used in these countries to sweep controversial issues under the carpet, justify continued inefficiency and incompetence, delay long overdue reforms and generally undermine accountability, transparency and good governance.
There are already signs of attempts by some quarters to whittle down the power, scope and terms of reference of the Police Royal Commission, such as to focus it on police manpower shortages instead of the priority agendas to deliver a modern, efficient and dedicated world-class police service to reduce the double rise in crime rate and the fear of crime and to eradicate police corruption and misconduct.
DAP calls on Abdullah not to back down from ensuring that the Police Royal Commission can focus on his original concerns about police corruption and misconduct, or the Police Royal Commission will suffer an immediate crisis of confidence and risk becoming a farce.
The Cabinet on Wednesday should take four policy decisions to create the conditions whereby the Police Royal Commission can be a model for other Royal Commissions in the country as well as the rest of the world for a transparent, accountable and democratic governance.
Firstly, the Cabinet should ensure that the powers, scope and terms of reference of the Police Royal Commission is comprehensive and all-encompassing to deliver quality world-class police service to reduce crime, the fear of crime and an ever-improviing Public Safety Index which is the admiration of other countries.
Secondly, the Royal Commission should be a public inquiry, tabling its findings in Parliament and submitting its reports in at least six-monthly intervals.
Thirdly, the Cabinet should ensure that there is a proper consultation process with all political parties, professional organizations, NGOs and the civil society to ensure that the commissioners appointed are independent, credible and reputable personalities of integrity who can immediately command public confidence. There should be no serving or retired police officer on the Royal Commission.
Fourthly, and most important of all, the Cabinet should announce a Whistleblowers Protection guarantee, the suspension of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and immunity from departmental victimization or prosecution for witnesses, whether serving or retired from the police force or members of the public, who testify before the Police Royal Commission about police corruption and misconduct.
Without such a Whistleblowers Protection guarantee, suspension of the OSA and immunity from departmental victimization or prosecution, those who have the best information about police corruption and misconduct, particularly those currently in police service or retirement, would not dare to come forward with their information – defeating the whole purpose of the Police Royal Commission.
We do not want those who come forward out of public-spiritedness to give information to the Royal Commission on police corruption and misconduct to end up like the former deputy chief of the Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Services Department, Mohd Ali Tambi Chik, who blew the whistle on his director-general Jaafar Sidek Tambi for alleged corruption and abuses of power in relation to use of department personnel and facilities to organize lavish wedding receptions for his son, ending up in being forced to early retirement.
Those who are prepared to come forward to give information and testimony to the Royal Commission of Inquiry are doing a national service and should not be treated as criminals, liable for harassment, departmental victimization or even prosecution under the Official Secrets Act or other laws. In fact, their public spiritedness in exposing police misconduct and corruption should be a credit in their public service record, which would ensure an effective and meaningful Royal Commission by encouraging those who have first-hand information about police corruption and misconduct to come forward to make its establishment a meaningful success.
Finally, the Cabinet should seriously 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.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman