Call on the Prime Minister who is Internal Security Minister to ensure justice and fair play for promotion of  police officers with is free from discrimination, abuses of power and corruption   – including non-Malay officers, which would go a long way to encourage better multi-racial balance in the police force


on Ministry of Internal Security during the 2005 Budget Committee stage debate
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): I call all on the Prime Minister who is Internal Security Minister to ensure justice and fair play for promotion of  police officers with is free from discrimination, abuses of power and corruption   – including non-Malay officers, which would go a long way to encourage better multi-racial balance in the police force. 

In view of the time constraints, let me focus on the widespread unhappiness of non-Malay officers in the police force with regard to fair and just promotion opportunities, based on merit and professionalism – not that Malay police officers do not have problems, unhappiness and grievances. 

There is an unspoken low quota for non-Malays to be promoted – though they may hold university degrees as well as excel in their work.   

Let me illustrate.  After five years with good record, an inspector becomes chief inspector. With at least three years of good service record, a chief inspector may apply for an interview by a three-member board to become an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). 

Currently, the promotion exercise is conducted once in every four years based on merit and interview.  The merit is based on three continuous years of attaining 90 marks or above in his yearly performance. His application opportunity can be undermined by a 89 marks in any of the intervening years. Thus, he is at the mercy of either one or both of his superior officers. 

I propose that the marks of the three years be averaged (average 90 marks) to minimize unfairness and discrimination. 

Examples that discrimination, victimization and injustices in the police forces with regard to promotion faced by non-Malay officers in the police force could be illustrated by the following: 

  • One Chief Inspector who had served 17 years and recognized as best prosecuting officer twice as well as commended by the Inspector-General of Police has yet to be promoted to ASP after two interviews.
  • Another Chief Inspector with two degrees (LL.B. and B. Econs) has spent most part of his 18 years in the force.  A well-connected Malay corporal whom he trained is now an ASP.
  • Another Chief Inspector (with LL.B) served 17 years and was commended for his work but no promotion.

There is a lack of transparency in the assessment system as the grading by two of their immediate superior officers (e.g. ASP, DSP or Superintendent) is confidential. 

The interview (lasting 10-15 minutes) by the three-member interview board is so subjective that the professional questions asked (eg traffic officer is asked narcotics question) may not be relevant to his work.  The long period for making the decision may be subject to manipulation and lobbying. 

I suggest that professional questions asked should be related to the applicant’s current work and the results be known within two months. 

The fastest or shortest period for an inspector promoted to ASP is seven years. Currently, there are Chief Inspectors who have served the force for 28-30 years but still waiting for promotion to ASP.  Their monthly salaries have remained the same for the last 11 years. 

Most Chief Inspectors passed the interview hurdle through good connection with superior officers, politicians and businessmen who were close to the superior officers. 

There have been allegations that there are corrupt Interview Board members who are “on the take” at the range of RM40,000 to RM70,000 to pass a candidate.  There have been allegations that “businessmen” with connections with the criminal underworld had helped their candidates to get promotions and receive “dividends” for their “investments”. 

According to several retired senior police officers, only about 25% to 30% of the candidates got through the interview board without paying bribes. 

Good non-Malay officers are disadvantaged because they do not have as many senior Malay officers and UMNO politicians to support them, ending up with great frustration among the non-Malay police officers. 

Let me deal with the gazetted officers – the Superintendent Group. 

Firstly, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP) – which is through direct recruitment from degree holders and through interview from chief inspectors’ pool. 

Those who are recruited straight into this group view all potential ASP promoted promoted frofm the Chief Inspector group as their potential rival in future promotion to DSP because of their long experience in the force. The career of many non-Malay officers end as ASP. 

Few non-Malay officers advance to the level of the DSP because of the quota limitation, although promotion to DSP is through merit and interview. 

Superintendent: Even fewer non-Malays rise to this level for the same reason. 

As for the Commissioners’ Group, non-Malay representation is very low. 

The government should take urgent action to ensure justice and fair play in promotion of all police officers, including the following: 

  • If fresh graduates are good enough to be recruited straight into the cadet ASP, then there is more compelling reason to upgrade all existing inspectors with university degree to be placed on the ASP scale given their experience in the force.
  • The current system of yearly evaluation by immediate superior officer should be reviewed to become more transparent and fair.  At the end of each year, all members of the force should know how they perform openly in writing.
  • Promotion should be based on one’s performance to be judged objectively.  After 47 years of independence, the time is long overdue to get rid of racial quota  in the police frorce as well as in other government departments.
  • Review of salary scale of Chief Inspectors – Many competent inspectors are stuck at Chief Inspector level with no salary increment after 17 years. They thus lose the motivation to continue their good work. Worst still, they may look for outside sources of income to meet growing family obligations.  The yearly increment of Chief Inspectors as well as other officers should continue as long as they continue to perform their duties. This will compensate them with more take-home pay from lack of opportunity for upward promotion opportunites.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman