Whether IPCMC or EAIC matters

The Najib government seems to be making a plausible case when its new media spokesman, the Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, says that when it comes to custodial deaths and abuses of power, what is important is “stern action” and not which agency – whether IPCMC or EAIC.

He said the rakyat want “stern action”, whether from an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) or whatever agency.

He stressed that a strengthened Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC), if it could conduct speedy and thorough investigations into custodial deaths and abuse of power, would do just as well.

Khairy’s glib and slick defence of the government’s preference for EAIC instead of IPCMC would be plausible if the scourge of police custody deaths is a new one and not a problem of over a decade, or the government is a new one and not one where the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has entered into his fifth year of premiership!

Or is Khairy admitting that for the past four years, despite the Prime Minister’s boasts of a very successful Government Transformation Programme (GTP), Najib and his Home Minister for the period, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, had failed miserably in addressing and resolving the issue of police custodial deaths?

Neither Khairy or any government spokesman can deny or ignore the fact that the IPCMC was proposed specifically by Dzaiddin Police Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2005 to end the outrage of high police custodial deaths while the EAIC was established specifically to neuter the IPCMC proposal and to avoid meaningful police transparency and accountability.

When the Dzaiddin Police Royal Commission of Inquiry submitted its report in May 2005, it reported police statistics of 80 deaths in police custody in the five years from January 2000 to December 2004, or an annual average of 16 deaths in police custody in those five years.

With 222 deaths in police custody from 2,000 to now, which means 142 deaths from Jan 2005 to June 2013, this works out to a higher annual average of deaths in police custoday in the past 8 ½ years, i.e. 16.7 deaths.

The argument put forward by Khairy – that what matters is that “Stern action vital, whether it is IPCMC or EAIC” in order to end high police custodial deaths – might be plausible in 2005 when the country was deciding whether to implement the Dzaiddin RCI recommendation to set up IPCMC, but is now completely unacceptable and discredited as after more than eight years, annual average of police custodial deaths are even higher and the EAIC in the past four years have dismally failed to address the problem of police deaths in custody until the recent nation-wide furore.

For this reason, the Cabinet should not indulge in any new form of procrastination to avoid immediate action to end the scandalously high incidence of police custodial deaths, and it should live up to its “Transformation” brand by taking the policy decision tomorrow to establish the IPCMC in the first meeting of the 13th Parliament beginning next Monday.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah