IF there was any doubt previously that there are vast links between organised crime and high-ranking police officers, that was completely dispelled by none other than Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, who talked about a plot to overthrow him.
What he said earlier this month was nothing less than shocking: there is a cartel within the police force of younger officers who want to disgrace and oust him. The aim is to dominate the force for personal gain.
“I’m asking them to repent. It will be too late to do so at 60 years old when we retire, (when) we’ll be back in civilian clothes. No one will be afraid of us because we would no longer be in uniform. Don’t regret it then.”
It’s brave of him to disclose this, but should he wait for them to repent? Should he not take action first? After all, dominating the police force for personal gain smacks of criminal activity, and the police are duty-bound to investigate and bring the culprits to book.
The disclosure raises many questions: how high up the chain are these officers? Are there links with the underworld, gangsters and criminals? How widespread is this? And, is the police force and its primary duty of fighting corruption and upholding the rule of law compromised?
Despite the IGP saying subsequently that he has matters under control and that he will handle it himself instead of reporting to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) – the first body that should be involved in the line of investigation – that is not the route the investigation should take, especially in the light of recent cases that indicate the force may have been compromised.
In the so-called Geng Nicky bust, for instance, 68 people were arrested involving Macau Scam operators, the IGP announced. The individuals were believed to be members of a gang linked to the fugitive Datuk Seri Nicky Liow. They were detained for offences including money laundering. Importantly, he said that 34 policemen are expected to be picked up in connection with the case – that’s a huge number.
Also, the IGP said earlier that he felt “betrayed” by an officer from the Penang Commercial Crime Investigation Department who had released suspects involved in a Macau Scam.
“Investigations by the Bukit Aman Integrity and Standard Compliance Department found there was such an offence. We are taking drastic action because this is clearly a betrayal of the trust placed on him.”
While these cases are new, allegations have long persisted of support within elements of the police force over links to the underworld. Further, there have been many allegations of police taking bribes and abuses by policemen against those in police lock-ups.
All of these point to a need for police investigations to be independent – otherwise, there will be a tendency among them to protect their own kind. This will, in the long term, lead to increasing corruption and abuse of power within the police, which will lead to poor enforcement and an erosion of the rule of law, discriminating in favour of the rich and the powerful.
The first line of investigation is to use the process already there: the MACC. It should investigate these. If there is widespread corruption in the force – and there are indications this is the case – then it would be necessary to set up a special task force to break this up.
Although the IPCMC proposal was in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto for the 2018 general election, it was watered down in terms of its powers, but even that was not passed.
That’s not likely to be a decision of the current political leadership, which has taken considerable leeway with the powers that they have to stretch governance and accountability already. It will have to be part of the reform process.
In the longer term, again as part of a reform process, it will be necessary to resurrect the sidelined Independent Police Misconduct and Complaints Commission (IPCMC), first mooted as far back as 2006 in a recommendation of the Royal Commission of Inquiry to enhance police management and operations.
Under the original IPCMC proposal, misconduct also included police corruption, police involvement in criminal offences, and non-compliance with legal and police regulations, in addition to curbing police brutality and misconduct.
Although the IPCMC proposal was in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto for the 2018 general election, it was watered down in terms of its powers, but even that was not passed. A bill was prepared in 2019, but before it could be properly considered, the PH government was overthrown.
An undiluted full IPCMC given unrestricted powers to investigate the police and headed by good, able men would be an absolute prerequisite for an extensive shake-up in the police force to put the police firmly back on the straight and narrow path – but that won’t come under the current government. – The Vibes, April 1, 2021
P. Gunasegaram says that a very good place to start the fight against graft is with police. He is executive director of advocacy organisation Sekhar Institute and editorial consultant at The Vibes