Need to fine-tune IPCMC Bill
Published on: Sunday, January 19, 2020
By: G25
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KUALA LUMPUR: The Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill 2019 contains many deficiencies and improvements need to be made for the proposed law to really have a bite.

The G25 (Group of 25 Eminent Malays) said some of the Bill’s existing provisions need to be further beefed-up, while others need to be clear of their intent.

This includes the appointment and removal of its commissioners as well as the power to make regulations.

It said the IPCMC Bill states that the Prime Minister advises the King on the appointment of commissioners.

“We are of the view that the appointment process must be clearly provided for so as to ensure that the membership of the Commission reflects the diversity of Malaysian society; and that the appointment process is fair, transparent and merit based.”

It said in this regards a committee comprising eminent persons, such as persons who have held high public offices, like former judges or former senior Government legal officers, with distinguished record and known for their integrity should be established to handle the appointment process and eventually submit the selected candidates to the Prime Minister, who then recommends the names to the King.

The group said in the interest of the independence of the Commission, the Prime Minister should only have a nominal involvement in the appointment of IPCMC Commissioners.

On the Bill providing for the King to remove the Commissioners at any time on the advice of the Prime Minister, the group, comprising influential individuals and heads of civil society organisations, felt that should not be the course taken.

“We respectfully suggest that the Commissioners be given security of tenure, just like Judges. This is an important step to improve integrity and to maintain the independence of the IPCMC,” they said.

G25 also said that the power to make regulations to enforce the IPCMC Act should be vested with the commission, instead of the Prime Minister.

“This will be logical and consistent with the fact that to be an independent body, the Commission should have the power to make and to amend its regulations from time to time in order to improve its enforcement framework and keep abreast with new developments,” it said.

Under the IPCMC Bill, the Prime Minister is also empowered to amend, from time to time, the Schedule that provides for the composition of the Disciplinary Board. The Schedule is an integral part of the Act.

“We take the position that only Parliament should have the power to amend the Schedule and not the Executive.”

The G25 also called for the investigation powers of the IPCMC to be further enhanced and spelt out in greater detail.

“The Commissioners and officers of the Commission should have all powers of investigation as contained in the Criminal Procedure Code and such powers shall be in addition to the powers conferred under the Act.”

The group also called for specific provisions to be inserted in the Bill to empower the IPCMC to, among others, conduct public hearings, summon witnesses, examine witnesses, compel the production of documents, and to provide for the arrest of witnesses, for purposes of investigation and hearings.

The group added that there must also be a provision for legal representation.

“The IPCMC must not end up being a mere showpiece or a toothless tiger,” the G25 said.

The group is also of the view that the provisions for witness protection under the Bill was inadequate, stressing the need for whistleblowers and secret witnesses to be protected.

It added that anyone who threatens or deters anyone from giving evidence to the IPCMC must be punished severely.

“The current proposal is a jail term of 2 years or a fine of RM10,000, or both. In our opinion this is inadequate. The punishment must be heavier.”

It said the Commission must also be given powers to establish a Code or Guidelines that provides for a procedure of handling witnesses, whistleblowers and persons assisting the IPCMC.

“Only if the witness protection framework is clearly spelt out will public have confidence in lodging reports to the IPCMC.”

Touching on the IPCMC Bill provision exempting the Inspector General of Police (IGP) from the IPCMC’s jurisdiction, it said such a move in their view was without good grounds, adding that section 22(2) of the IPCMC Bill providing for the same should also be removed.

The G25 is also of the view that the Inspector General’s Standing Orders (IGSO) should be made public, as it was still classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

The group is also against provisions in the Bill which states that complaints against the IGP would not be dealt with by the IPCMC. Instead, the complaint will be referred to the Chief Secretary to Government and a Special Disciplinary Board will be constituted.

“We are of the view that the Commission should be given the power to handle complaints against the IGP, no special treatment or protection should be given to the IGP under the IPCMC Bill. 

Consistent with the equality before the law provision in the Federal Constitution (Article 8) the IGP must be subjected to the same level of scrutiny as other police officers,” it said.

On the Bill allowing the IPCMC to delegate any of its functions and powers to any member of the police force, the G25 said it was of the view that such delegation provision should be excluded as it adversely affects the independence of the IPCMC.

It also called for a specific time frame imposed on the police force to refer cases of grievous hurt or death in their custody to the IPCMC. The Bill at the moment does not provide such specific time frame.

On the Bill’s provision calling for the dissolution of the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), the group said this should not be case.

“We are of the view that the EAIC must not be immediately dissolved upon the establishment of the IPCMC; not until the proposed Ombudsman is established.

“Otherwise, in the interim period pending the establishment of the Ombudsman, who is to deal with complaints and misconduct against the enforcement agencies that are now under the charge of the EAIC?” it questioned.

The G25 added that more research and consultation sessions with the public and NGOs must be conducted for purposes of improving the Bill.

“As it stands, the move forward is very clear: the Government must not rush through the enactment of the IPCMC Bill, and sufficient time must be spent by lawmakers and drafters to debate and to implement corrective measures in order to improve the IPCMC Bill before it is passed.”

The G25 also begged to differ the Royal Malaysian Police’s criticism that the IPCMC Bill was draconian and discriminatory in nature.

“We are of the opinion such apprehensions as expressed are unfair and unfounded. On the contrary, we find that the Bill contains many deficiencies, and needs looking into more seriously and improvements be made for the proposed law to really have bite. 

Any honest and professional police officer should have no fear of the Bill. On the contrary, the Bill, which is long overdue, should be welcome,” it said.

The IPCMC Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on July 18. It seeks to handle and investigate complaints against the police force.

Following its tabling in the lower house of Parliament, the Bill has been sent to the Special Select Committee on the Consideration of Bills.

The Special Select Committee has held four sessions in Johor, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

The IPCMC Bill has been drafted pursuant to the proviso to Article 140, Clause (1), of the Federal Constitution which empowers Parliament to enact a law to establish a body to deal with matters concerning the discipline of the police force; notwithstanding the existence of the Police Force Commission that otherwise would deal with such matters.

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