May 5, 2012
A Panel to Investigate Police Brutality: For Cover-Up?
The government has promised to set up an independent panel to investigate allegations of police brutality during last Saturday’s BERSIH rally, but opinion leaders are asking: Who will be the panellists, and is there any point in having the inquiry?
One issue that keeps cropping up is that public confidence in open inquiries is at an all time low. Among the most critical of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s announcement yesterday was Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, who said it was an an election ploy.
“On the one hand, Najib concludes that BERSIH is an attempt to overthrow the government. The next moment he says we’ll have an independent panel. It is clearly political since the election is coming, and he is not sincere at all,” said Lim, who heads the Centre for Policy Initiatives.
The Malaysian experience with royal commissions of inquiry and other so-called independent panels was that the odds were stacked in the government’s favour, he said.
“It won’t be independent and would simply be there to present the BN and Police points of view. It will be used for political spinning. We should reject this panel, unless the government changes its method of selection. The terms of reference also should be looked at carefully.”
Asked to suggest names for the panel, Lim said the suggestions should come from the main stakeholders – organisers of the BERSIH rally, Suhakam, the Bar Council, the Police and the Media.
Bar Council vice-president Christopher Leong concurred that having a panel without bite would be pointless.“We have had in the recent past disappointing experiences with public inquiries in that their recommendations are not heeded,” he said.
Plenty of evidence
Leong cited the Royal Commission on Police Misconduct and the more recent inquiry into the death of Teoh Beng Hock.
“Even the annual reports of Suhakam are not tabled and debated in Parliament. There is no point in having a commission of inquiry, or an independent panel of inquiry or a Suhakam inquiry if the findings and recommendations are ignored.It would be merely a process of buying time or wasting time and resources.”
Leong noted that the Police had said they were able to identify from videos and photos the rally participants who had misbehaved and would have them prosecuted.
He asked that the Police do the same with Policemen who misbehaved, adding that there were plenty of evidence on the Internet.
“The Police should therefore name these officers and have the A-G prosecute them. Don’t waste time, take action.”
Leong said that if the authorities wished to have an independent panel of inquiry, the following questions should be addressed: Who are going to be the members? What would be the panel’s terms of reference? What powers would it have and where would it derive such powers from?
“It is not productive to have a panel of inquiry that ultimately has no bite.” Leong also questioned if the panel would be solely about violence against the media, saying: “What about the allegations of police violence against the other members of the public – the clerks, secretaries, managers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, bankers, business people, IT people, farmers, stall owners, students, retirees, accountants, pilots, labourers, nurses, artists, etc?”
‘We really need neutrality’
However, the Chairman of the ASLI Centre of Public Policy Studies, Ramon Navaratnam, said having such a panel was “still better than none at all” although he would have preferred a Suhakam inquiry.
He suggested the following names as choices for the proposed commission’s chairman: former Police chief Tun Mohammed Haniff Omar, UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam and former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah.
“One good person would be preferably a judge who has no connection with the police. Not me. We need somebody of higher standing than that,” he said.
“This investigation must be done quickly – a one-month deadline, and you come up with conclusions and recommendations. There is ample evidence from all sides.”
Social Care Foundation chairman Robert Phang also said Suhakam would be the best body to investigate.“Suhakam is perceived to be anti-government, but in fact that’s not true,” he said.
“In any case, there’s no point putting in anybody who is mediocre. We need someone who is fair and just. One name I can think of is (Suhakam Vice-chairman) Simon Sipaun. Suhakam chief Abu Talib Othman also. We really need neutrality. But the question is: what is neutral? Neutral in the eyes of politicians or the public? We should ignore politicians because they are blindfolded. Perhaps the media should suggest some names.”
An online portal quoted DAP’s Tony Pua today urging the government to use Suhakam to conduct an inquiry and said the government’s proposal to set up a separate independent panel was unnecessary.
- Malaysian Bar Council: Police brutality worsens in Bersih 3.0 (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- Nathaniel Tan Reflects On BERSIH 3.0 (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- Bouquet of barbed wire for Dataran Merdeka (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- Post 428 BERSIH3.0 Rally: Sympathy and Stridency (dinmerican.wordpress.com)