Both Police and ACA need a fundamental revamp and given new powers if Malaysians are to be convinced that there would be no cover-ups whether of corruption or police abuses of power

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday): The statement by the Acting Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri  Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday that there would be no cover-up of investigations into the corruption and abuse of power involving senior police officers have highlighted the urgent need for a fundamental revamp of both the police and the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and to be  given  new powers  if Malaysians are to be convinced that there would be no cover-up whether of corruption or police abuses of power in the country. 

This could be testified by the fact that Abdullah’s announcement, though given front-page headline treatment by two “mainstream” print media (New Straits Times, Berita Harian) , appeared in a page 2 lead in a third (Utusan Malaysia) while  completely ignored by a fourth (The Star), created no ripples whatsoever among the people as it is regarded as another hackneyed statement which does not herald any seriousness of purpose or  political will for a major shake-up of both the police force and the ACA. 

While reiterating that the police would not hesitate to act against any black sheep in the force, the sad fact is that there appears to be more and more black sheep – though still an absolute minority – in the police force, and the root cause must be traced to the lack of a culture of zero-tolerance for corruption and abuses of power at all levels of the public service, starting from the highest Cabinet level among Ministers! 

One  major flaw of  the Suhakam Annual Report 2002 tabled in Parliament last week  is its failure to address this problem, particularly with the many complaints which had been lodged with Suhakam about police abuses of power. 

The Suhakam Annual Report 2002 reported that for the year, it received  62 complaints mainly related to alleged abuses of power by the  police, such as death in police custody, overcrowding in lockups and detention centres, police inaction on police reports lodged, abuses of process under section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code relating to the remand by the court of persons arrested but not yet charged for offences.   

It is hoped that in its future annual reports, Suhakam would attach an appendix giving individual  details of these complaints, their nature and outcome of Suhakam intervention. 

The Suhakam report seems to be quite ecstatic that the Police had acted on its suggestion and set up a Human Rights Desk in the Criminal Investigations Department with designated officers appointed to expedite contact and response and promote better relationship with Suhakam.  While this is a step in the right direction and will help expedite police response to inquiries from Suhakam on complaints, recommendations and other related human rights matters, it is a very small step purely at the bureaucratic level without any far-reaching change of the police mindset as a result of  human rights orientation and education of the entire police force. 

This is why the establishment of a Police Human Rights Desk to facilitate co-ordination and contact with Suhakam has not reduced the  rampant incidence of human rights violations by the police, as illustrated by the infamous Palm Court maltreatment of Indian IT professionals by the police in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur last month nearly precipitating a full-blown diplomatic crisis between Malaysia and India – nor has the police sent  out a clear and unmistakable message to Malaysians that it has undergone a transformation and is  sensitive and fully respects human rights. 

What is urgently  needed is not just a Human Rights Desk as a sort of f one-stop postal agency  in the police force where Suhakam  communications are given faster attention, but a Police  Human Rights Division to address the major police shortcoming of callous insensitivity, disregard and violation of human rights and tasked with the human rights education of all police ranks and the development of a human rights culture in the Royal Malaysian Police –  receiving and acting on public complaints about human rights violations  and not purely to liaise with Suhakam.

Nobody would believe that there is no more  cover-up of investigations into the corruption and abuses of power involving senior police officers, when such cover-up are so commonplace in the entire public service. 

It is now more than a month since the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the MCA Youth leader, Datuk Ong Tee Kiat, had respectively  made very serious allegations of MCA money politics and “black gold” politics, but there are  no sign of any serious investigation whether by the police or the ACA despite the record number of police reports which had been lodged by MCA grass-root leaders.

Last month, in a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat to DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok, on the various outstanding police and ACA investigations into MCA President and Transport Minister,  the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Douglas Uggah Embas said the ACA was still investigating several reports filed against Ling Liong Sik  to date.

I had lodged a report nearly six years ago on 13th June 1997, asking for full ACA investigations as to how Ling Hee Leong, son of MCA President and Transport Minister, could at the age of 27 embark on corporate acquisitions exceeding RM1.2 billion in a matter of months and whether there had been improper use and influence of his father's political and Ministerial position.

On 4th June 2002, I had lodged a police report at the Dang Wangi police station against Ling, asking for police investigations as to whether he had committed an offence of obstructing ACA investigations under Section 19 of the Anti-Corruption Act as a result of Soh Chee Wen's disclosures in his interview with Malaysiakini, an offence liable on conviction to the maximum sentence of RM100,000 fine or ten years' jail or both.

If the ACA can take six long years without producing any result or outcome, one way or another, into such a high-profile report, how could there be  public confidence that the era of  “cover up” of  influential personalities under  ACA or police investigations is a thing of the past?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman