Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The EAIC is still needed (Star)

The EAIC is still needed

  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 13 Aug 2019
Enforcement failure? The ammonia leak in the ice factory in Shah Alam being checked. — Filepic

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is appalled by the decision of the Pakatan Harapan-led government to abolish the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) vide the proposed Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) 2019 Bill.

Section 51 of the new Bill states, “The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission Act 2009 [Act 700] (the “repealed Act”) is repealed and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (the “dissolved Commission”) is dissolved.” (At bit.ly/new_act.)

While the future IPCMC would be dealing with complaints about police officers, the EAIC is currently dealing with complaints about almost all other enforcement agencies’ officers, including the Immigration Department, Housing and Local Government Ministry, Labour Department, Industrial Relations Department, Department of Occupational Safety and Health, Road Transport Department and the Department of Environment.

A perusal of the statistics of complaints received indicate that complaints were received concerning many agencies other than the police.

The recent pollution incident in Pasir Gudang, Johor, and subsequent events indicate the failings of many of these enforcement agencies – they seem to have failed to do their work efficiently, only seeming to start acting after the failure in enforcement resulted in a catastrophe.

It was shocking when so many illegal factories were discovered after the Paris Gudang incident, and how so many summons for violations of laws were issued to factories after the incident. This is an indication of the failure of the responsible enforcement agencies, even after Pakatan Harapan formed the government in May 2018.

There was the case where two workers died when ammonia leaked at an ice factory in Shah Alam (“Ammonia leak at ice factory: Two dead, 18 hurt”, The Star, Aug 13; online at bit.ly/star_leak). An inspection by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) found that the premises had a licence to carry out ice processing activities but was not permitted to store hazardous materials (“MBSA: Ice factory had no licence to store hazardous materials”, The Star, Aug 13; online at bit.ly/star_hazard).

This, again, is a failure of the local council, Department of Occupational Safety and Health under the Human Resources Ministry and maybe others.

There have also been many other allegations concerning failings of Human Resources Ministry enforcement officers, likewise the Department of Environment.

As such, Madpet is of the position that the EAIC is still very much needed, and that its powers should be extended to prosecution.

The scope of agencies covered by the EAIC should also be extended to maybe cover the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Prisons Department and even the Election Commission.

The fundamental problem with the efficiency of the EAIC, and soon the IPCMC, is the lack of public awareness.

Along with that, there is also a problem with the public’s confidence in such commissions, about whether there is any use lodging complaints or bringing issues to their attention.

As such, it is important that the public is made aware of actions taken, including the number of errant officers prosecuted and/or disciplined and for what.

This will restore the public’s faith and more people will come forward to highlight wrongdoings.

Complainants should also be kept updated of the outcome of their complaints.

The third issue is the question of public access – there really should be an office of the EAIC, and soon the IPCMC, in all major towns. These commissions should also have sufficient staff to carry out the work.

Many of the wrongdoings by enforcement agencies impact negatively on people and their rights. The wrongdoings can impact the environment and health, and some of these impacts are irremediable. As such, mere disciplinary actions like fines, transfers or demotions simply are not adequate. There should also be public prosecutions of all such wrongdoers. While this will serve as a deterrent to others, such public trials will also improve the image of the administration of justice and government.

Even the proposed IPCMC Bill ought to be amended to give the commission the power to prosecute, and not merely the power to discipline.

The names of all officers fined and/or disciplined should also be made public, along with the nature of their wrongdoings.

The EAIC, in the past, did conduct several inquiries, including into deaths in custody but, alas, there seemed to be no action taken.

For example, in the death in custody case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur, who died in 2014, the EAIC found that “... the use of physical violence by police during arrest and questioning was the cause of death” (bit.ly/malaysian_bar). Furthermore, “According to the enforcement watchdog, its investigations also found attempts to obscure evidence from the 25-year-old’s interrogation that resulted in 61 separate injuries on various parts of his body.” We have not heard about the prosecution and trial of these police officers who broke the law.

This reminds us of the findings in April 2019 of the enforced disappearances of Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat by Suhakam (the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia). It has been almost four months since the findings were made public and we still see no action.

It is a waste of time to have such commissions, including the EAIC, if the government fails to act on their findings. That is why all these commissions – Suhakam, the EAIC and the future IPCMC – should have prosecutorial powers. The lack of action by the government will only dampen the commitment of such commissions.

Therefore, Madpet calls on:

> the government to retain the EAIC and remove Section 51 from the proposed IPCMC 2019 Bill that is now before Parliament;

> the government to amend laws to give the EAIC, Suhakam and the proposed IPCMC prosecution powers;

> the government to adopt a stringent policy with regard to public servants, whereby a failure in duty – that may violate rights, including by impacting on public health or the environment, and/or that may bring about injustice – will result in termination and also trial in an open court.
This includes the failure to inform the relevant authorities when senior or fellow officer(s) and/or ministers break the law.

> the Attorney General and/or the government to immediately prosecute police officers found to have killed and/or tampered with evidence in the cases of Syed Mohd Azlan and others.

Let the courts determine guilt and innocence.

For and on behalf of Madpet (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) - Star, 13/8/2019

 See earlier posts:-

Retain EAIC to monitor all agencies, says group(FMT)

NGO: EAIC should stay despite planned IPCMC introduction(Malaysiakini)

EAIC harus kekal lepas IPCMC ditubuhkan, kata NGO(Malaysiakini)

China Press carries MADPET Statement on 12/8/2019 - In Chinese


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