Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No room for violent conduct (The Sun Daily)

No room for violent conduct

THIS writer was one of the many who was in one way or another connected with the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the Royal Malaysian Police Force. 

Having written extensively on the forgery of the minutes of the Selangor Executive Council on matters related to the housing project in Taman Mentrai, inaction by the police compelled the residents to take the matter to the commission where, among others, I met three members who were personally known to me – Tun Hanif Omar, Datuk Kadir Jasin and Tunku Aziz Tunku Ibrahim.

I never participated or gave evidence because I was personally unhappy that the police were being singled out despite abuse and misuse of power by various other law enforcement agencies. 

The police, I had then reasoned, were being sought out because they enforced the Penal Code which meant that crime was their forte while those who enforce other enactments were not being included.

Instead of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), I had proposed the setting up of an ombudsman to hear complaints against not only members of the police force, but also officers of the Customs Department, immigration officers, health officers and every other civil servant who was tasked with enforcement.

As usual, my proposal found its way into the wastepaper basket and so did the recommendations of the RCI that the IPCMC be set up. Then, I was also of the opinion that the IPCMC cannot prevent or reduce deaths in custody. And this stance has not changed since.

That was seven years ago and a lot of water has flown under the bridge. And so has the number of people dying in custody. The outcry for justice for the victims has reached consequential proportions and judging from what has been said and done, the voice of anger is getting louder and louder.

The government can no longer quell these voices which want the perpetrators of such heinous crimes to be brought to book. This is because deaths in custody are no longer isolated.

Human Rights lawyer Charles Hector says that merely on data provided by the government, there has been an increase in custodial deaths over the years. He says: "There have been 150 deaths from 1990 until 2004 (10.7 deaths a year), 108 deaths between 2000 and 2006 (18), and, 85 deaths between 2003 and 2007 (21.25), 153 deaths between 1999 and 2008 (17), and 147 deaths between 2000 and 2009 (16.3).

He says: "There has been an increase in the number of deaths in custody until 2007, and the numbers seem to be dropping but it certainly is still higher than the 1990-2007 period."

These are startling figures which ought to jolt the powers-that-be to move into gear to reverse this shocking state of affairs. Perhaps, policies of the past have allowed those involved to get away, at the most, with a slap on the wrist.

There must be zero-tolerance against violent conduct, not only by the police, but also all gazetted officers who are entrusted with enforcing the law.

Having said that, whoever is entrusted with this task should not just confine himself or herself to just death or physical harm but other shortcomings. 

It should encompass a host of other areas to include dereliction of duties, being biased, mistreating the public and even causing unnecessary delay in providing documents or information as provided in the law.

Let us not confine ourselves to looking at mere violence and ignore the other forms of inadequacies within the system which cause unnecessary problems for the rakyat.

People have not even got acknowledgements for their letters and requests, let alone decent replies. Would this not amount to indiscipline? In the private sector, they would have been censured for their inaction.

The list is endless but if we want our administrative system to be first class, then don't single out just one arm – the police – but include everyone who has dealings with the public.

R. Nadeswaran resumes his campaign for an ombudsman to look into the shortcomings of the administrative system. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com - the SunDaily, 18/6/2013, No room for violent conduct

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