By Jeswan Kaur
Police chief Ismail Omar is assuring the rakyat that his “men in blue”, that is, the cops are doing a fine job while Umno goons are condemning those who keep criticising the police force.
The issue is not about the people judging the police force; rather it is the shenanigans of the police force that has forced the rakyat to question their effectiveness and why the government is so afraid of setting up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
From rapes and nude squats in police lock- ups to abuse and death of detainees in prisons, the true calling of the police force is being doubted, as the rakyat continue to read of the atrocities taking place in police cells.
Last year, Ismail asked the rakyat to come up with ideas on ways to bring the crime rate down.
He then said the 26 police initiatives under the National Key Result Area had shown some positive results, with the people themselves asking the police how they could play a role in reducing crime.
“This means they are more focused and willing to cooperate with the police for public safety,” Ismail had said.
While the people are willing to work with the police, what is the latter doing in return? How does Ismail explain the never-ending deaths in police lock-ups and the erosion of faith in the police force?
Now, another death in detention has become the talk of the town. On Aug 13, 2012, Cheah Chin Lee, 36, was pronounced dead at the Jalan Pattani Northeast police headquarters in George Town.
The post-mortem report stated that Cheah died as a result of “asphyxia due to hanging” but his family begs to differ; they are questioning why Cheah would hang himself barely five hours in detention.
The family stands firm that Cheah was mentally stable and held a permanent job, leaving Ismail to answer as to why a suspect, upon being detained, dies in the lock-up.
According to police statistics, 147 people have died in police custody between January 2000 and February 2010.
The deaths included 64 Malays while in police custody, with 30 deaths among Chinese detainees, 28 Indians, eight other races, and 14 foreigners.
With the statistics revealing the worst, dare Ismail still claim that “public safety” is the police force’s top most priority?
Atrocities by cops must stop
Even those at the very top are given to abuse, with the former IGP Rahim Noor being one. After giving former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim a black eye in 1998 , Rahim went on to say that Anwar was safe and sound in police custody.
Rahim received “support” from former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had the audacity to suggest that Anwar’s injuries were self-inflicted.
On May 26 last year, FMT reported that a 20-year-old student, S Ganesan, claimed he was beaten up and verbally abused by the police after he knocked into a policeman’s motorcycle at a roadblock in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, in the early hours of the morning.
“The policeman kept beating me and called me ‘keling’. They also shouted at me, saying I should just die so that they can close the case,” Ganesan was quoted by FMT as saying.
The youngster was then warned not to report the matter before he was bundled into an ambulance and despatched to the Tunku Jaafar Hospital.
Last year, the police once again made news for all the wrong reasons when they forced female Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists who were detained to undress in the presence of male police officers.
Thirty-six of its activists were detained on June 25 this year while carrying out their “Udahlah Bersaralah” (Enough already, Retire Now) campaign in Perak, to remind Malaysians of the pitfalls of returning Barisan Nasional to power in the 13th general election.
Complaints of sexual misconduct by police were made by detainees in Kepala Batas, Penang, and Ipoh, respectively and PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan said a police officer told them they needed six months to investigate the report.
In November last year, a 39-year-old finance accountant, who had highlighted her plight of being allegedly molested by a group of 11 policemen seven years ago, found herself in the dock instead, with the charge being related to the incident that took place seven years ago.
Last year, too, the police constable who beat up a 23-year-old suspected car thief, A Kugan, while under police custody in 2009 and which left Kugan dead in custody, was let off the hook by the court.
On June 18, 2008, a cop on duty at the Putra Heights (in Subang Jaya) police station raped a 17-year-old pillion rider after detaining her boyfriend at the police station for riding the motorbike without a licence.
IPCMC is not an option
With the latest death in police custody, the federal government under the Barisan Nasional leadership has run out of excuses to avoid establishing the IPCMC.
The IPCMC is not an option but a must and it is simply a matter of time before pressure mounts on the government to put the IPCMC in place.
In 2005, a 634-page report by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the police force, headed by a former judge, revealed that the police were brutal, inept and the most corrupt among the government departments.
Between 1999 and 2003, there were 5,726 formal corruption complaints involving the police force and it was recommended that the police force be monitored by an independent watchdog.
According to a non-governmental organisation, Aastivaram Foundation, between 2003 and 2007, there were 85 custodial deaths. This number excluded those who were shot dead.
“The commission is long overdue. Currently, the police themselves investigate cases of police abuse and I believe they tend to cover up such cases,” the foundation’s vice-president R Sanjeevan had informed FMT.
In the face of such revelations, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein continues to dismiss the importance of IPCMC, saying instead the commission is not welcomed as it is not helpful in resolving police abuse cases.
Has Hishammuddin not been “in touch” with the rakyat’s miseries at the hands of the police? Or is the Home Minister scared the IPCMC will uncover the long hidden dirt and scandalise the Royal Malaysian Police?
Or is there a fear too that the IPCMC will force the 205-year-old police force to re-look its motto of “Firm, Fair and Prudent” (Tegas, Adil dan Berhemah), which, after two centuries later, has yet to live up to its name?
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist