It appears that Malaysians are perennially bombarded by shocks and shock waves, since the epic March 8, 2008 general election.
Political shenanigans and Machiavellian trickery appear to jolt our sense of justice, equanimity and sense of belonging, of our shaky if aspired to patriotism.
It shatters the already nebulous myth of the jingoistic 1Malaysia which continues to belie the unvarnished disarray that consumes our politically-fractured citizens.
Sadly, most if not all of these inane happenstances are self-inflicted by unthinking members of an administrative branch run amok, which appear increasingly aloof and out of touch with changing times.
On many occasions too, politicians on either side have been trading body blows of razor-edge brinkmanship, which totters on mutual self-destruction.
In its wake, these cheap point-scoring exercises continue to drag some of us, the more rabble-roused citizens deeper into the morasses of futility and despair!
No, it’s not our fault per se, but it most certainly underscores the pathetic state of justice and sense of fair play in the country.
Political aide, Teoh Beng Hock’s untimely and truly unnecessary death has put yet another damper on the institution of justice and law enforcement in the country.
This time the hurriedly cobbled together MACC must bear the brunt of this senseless and tragic exercise of unfettered power play and what appears increasingly as blatant one-sided prosecution, perhaps even shameless persecution!
Sadly, the officers in charge appear nonchalantly oblivious that what they have been doing, is anything but impartial or even neutral.
Their blinkered attempts to push what must be undisguised probes into so-called complaints of misallocation of funds only of oppositionist lawmakers, surely must be from partisan directives!
Blatant misuse of the machinery of power
For fair-minded citizens, there appears not to be any modicum of decency to do the ‘right’ thing, even if only for show!
Instead, in one fell swoop, officers of the much maligned MACC have destroyed every thinking Malaysian’s dream of civility, personal human rights, justice and modern democracy.
Their arrogating of power to enforce their duties without regard to natural justice and proper rules of engagement, debases most thinking citizens.
It continues to disabuse us of our fanciful notions that perhaps some semblance of innovation and justice may indeed be the better modus operandi of the new leadership under Prime Minster Najib Razak.
If for nothing else, this blatant misuse of the machinery of power, reinforces the need for a more enlightened, a more responsible and accountable system of justice and law. I continue to believe and hope that this new administration can do better and rise above such unnecessary if arrant negative publicity.
It is sad that in the process of trying to enforce the ‘law’, a young man with so much potential has been so ruthlessly cut down, his life truncated so prematurely, that he had now left behind a bride and his orphan child to be!
This cynical loss of life, so senseless and so unnecessary, points to perhaps another growing culture of arrogance when another’s life was dehumanised and cheaply disposed of… Power of authority was all that mattered.
This is indeed not something isolated, it is now appearing to be a pattern of ingrained autocracy, unchallenged power among enforcement agencies such as the police and now the MACC, with no foreseeable oversight in place.
Custodial ‘torture’, unregulated investigation methods, custodial injuries and deaths, now appear to be commonplace, and are occurring with a regularity that showcase our enforcement agencies’ callous disregard for human lives and their imperious unconcern for human rights.
Breakdown of public trust and confidence
When will our helpless, disempowered citizens get justice? When will our Kugan Ananthan, Letchumanan Kathan, Ravindran Alagiry, S Henry, A Gnanapragasam, and now Teoh Beng Hock, get their justice? When will their true stories be told? When will their loved ones find closure and meaning in such senseless premature loss?
What about the other 1,535 custodial deaths that had occurred between 2003 and 2007? Surely these numbers are shockingly high by any standards; they are shameful and unacceptable, and point to a systemic failure of our custodial service, our law enforcement agencies.
Can there be any doubt that these should never have happened, nor must they be allowed to continue? How many more nameless and unnumbered detainees beyond 2007 were there, who have suffered, been injured and who might or might not have perished?
In the 2005 Royal Commission Report for Police Reform, three major concerns from the public were identified:
- High incidence of crime and widespread public concern regarding personal safety.
- Public perception of widespread corruption within the police force.
- Extensive and consistent abuse of human rights and non-compliance with prescribed laws.
The report acknowledges that because of the above challenges, there is a growing breakdown of public trust and confidence in the police force. Increasingly the police force is “generally viewed as inefficient, uncaring, unable to prevent or check crime.”
Worse, the police is seen to condone widespread “infringements of human rights… and the PDRM is not seen as being transparent or accountable to the public.”
In the light of these weaknesses, a resounding recommendation was made that an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) be set up urgently.
This is the proposed external oversight body to be established through an Act of Parliament, and which must be vested with powers to receive and investigate complaints regarding alleged police misconduct and to impose sanctions against any found guilty of such misconduct.
That appears to be the crux of the matter. As of right now, the police force and now the MACC appears to be ‘above the law’, answerable only to the Home Minister, if that was at all, evident.
There appears to be no oversight body to determine if there have been abuse or misuse of their powers and worse, if they had engaged in criminal activities including custodial abuses of detainees, unlawful taking of lives, any life without justification!
There have been instances where, the police had acted as judge, jury and executioners as well, e.g. shooting deaths of groups of so-called armed criminals.
Has there ever been any review of such extrajudicial shootings by any independent police or watchdog Internal Affairs Department, as exist elsewhere? From 2001 to 2003, there were just six coroner’s inquests, out of 80 reported custoidal deaths – were the other 72 deserving of their untimely deaths?
Royal Commission Inquiry mandatory
Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) has on several occasions, been promoting the continuing education of human rights to the public – its purported “work to nurture, develop and advance a human rights culture within Malaysia”.
My belief is that the public does need some reminder of their human rights, every now and again. We often take this too much for granted. Sadly, most of us are now fully aware, when tragedies such as Teoh’s shocking death, happen.
It reminds us that perhaps, these can happen to us too, without rhyme or reason – too chancy, too unbelievably unjust, too unpredictably senseless and too iffy!
Of greater concern is to remind and educate the enforcement agencies such as the police, the military and now the MACC, to be not only mindful of their duties, but to demand their strict adherence to human rights dictates in each of their engagement with the public.
Detainees, witnesses, suspects, prisoners, whoever they are, must be accorded due respect and fairness, until all their legal rights have been exhausted.
There should be greater move toward painstaking gathering of evidence, rather than resorting to coercing and extracting confessions, which have been identified as a faulty barbaric mandate preferred by some of our law enforcement officers.
A recent NST editorial “Death of a Witness” makes a logical if grudging apologia for some form of closure to this debacle:
“In the face of a sceptical public which is over-receptive to any and all allegations of bias and subterfuge, and unwilling to give the MACC the benefit of the doubt, while it must be bold and resolute in investigating and prosecuting cases without fear or favour, it must also not abandon due process.
“This makes respect for human rights as critical as the selection process for investigations and the impeccable credentials it must establish for itself if the MACC is to enjoy the wholehearted confidence and close cooperation of the public.”
A Royal Commission Inquiry is now mandatory to appease the ghosts of all these custodial deaths, which must now include the MACC. In the interim, the MACC must suspend all its activities pending this full inquiry.
Its due processes and rules of engagement must be reviewed and spelt out clearly, with no ambiguity as to which investigative techniques are illegal, and these should be fully subject to oversight sanction.
Legal representation, and continuous videotaping of all suspects and witnesses should be mandatory without exemption. Selection of officers must be entrenched with human rights education and inculcation, and those with wrongful attitudes or aptitudes must be removed or redeployed to other areas which do not interact with the public, lest they resort to actionable if delinquent activities.
In other words, it must undergo a total revamp and complete overhaul, if it should ever wish to regain any semblance of credibility, at all…
Teoh’s untimely demise must not be in vain! Our shock, our outrage and our sadness must be translated into a meaningful revamp of our enforcement agencies, and hopefully reignite some new belief and help reclaim some confidence in our badly bruised civic institutions…
DR DAVID KL QUEK is president of the Malaysian Medical Association. The above is a personal view and does not necessary reflect the organisation he represents./ Mkini