Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The tale of arrogance of police power

The arrogance of police power 
Wed, 05 May 2010 15:08 

A week after schoolboy Aminulrasyid Amzah's death by police shooting, Malaysians have been treated to the ghastly spectacle of a government withdrawing into itself in the face of public outrage, and seemingly intent only on finding grounds for justifying its actions.

Left in abeyance is the fact that governments exist in democratic nations to ensure the safety of all its citizens, and to ensure equal justice for all, no matter what their station in life.

Aminul is dead, at the age of 15, after a late-night caper. Under normal circumstances, he would have faced punishment from his parents. Instead he was, in effect, served the death penalty in appallingly suspicious circumstances.

The Malaysian public is justifiably angry and upset. Justice must be served in dealing with how Aminul died — not just for his sake, but also for the sake of all citizens who need reassurance, in no uncertain terms, that they are safe from their own guardians. 

It is at times like these that a democratically-elected government rises to the occasion and acts in the larger interests of everyone.

Instead, for the past week, the image that emerged is of an uncaring police force intent on protecting its reputation and its manliless, aggresively demanding that its word is accepted at face value without question.

If that is not the image they sought to build, the Inspector-General of Police and the Selangor police chief only have themselves to blame.

Musa Hassan made a childish threat to keep the police force in barracks, aggresively showed he expected unquestioning acceptance of the policemen's own accounts, then tried to pin on a dead boy and his family any responsibility for the circumstances that led to his death, in between keeping up a plaintive pleading for the public to be fair to his men.

It is no wonder that many demanded that he leave immediately and not wait for his contract to expire.

Khalid Abu Bakar also insisted that the public should believe his policemen's story and showed a callous willingness to label a schoolboy a criminal on the unproven assertion that a parang was found in his car, and arrogantly threatened politicians who took up the issue and questioned police accounts. 

It is no wonder that questions are asked whether he considers himself a policeman, an officer of the law, or is really a politician.

Politicians in the administration did not help matters much, either.

Hishammuddin Tun Hussein did himself no favours by acting tough, and demanding as the IGP did that the public must be fair to the police. His deputy, Abu Seman Yusop, leading a home ministry inquiry panel, has tried to pass it off as a "powerful" panel. But the panel is essentially conducting an internal inquiry, with no powers under law to investigate, hold public hearings or compel witnesses to testify. There is little public about what it does, save the public statements he makes and the way they are seen in public.

Even a loudly-proclaimed promise to make its findings public has now become conditional on the agreement of the home minister.

As for the prime minister, it was a week before he came out for a free, open and transparent inquiry and to warn against any cover-up. And that was while he was campaigning in Sibu. Why did it take him so long, after the IGP and the home minister had been cavorting with the facts in the face of increasing public anger? 

Is anyone really in charge? Does anything matter except to win elections?

The home ministry panel has now begun its work with the late inclusion of Tun Hanif Omar, the former Inspector-General and probably the last to command any measure of wide public respect. The home ministry clearly hopes that public respect for Hanif will spill over into respect for the panel and its findings. That is very much doubtful, given that an internal investigation falls far short of a proper public inquiry that the people and the circumstances demand.

What is at stake is not merely a matter of sorting out standard operating procedures, or of training of policemen, or of adherence to standards, or of how teenagers should be brought up.

Aminul's death by shooting is only one incident in a whole string of events that leave the reputation and authority of the entire police force and its leadership under question. 

What is really under scrutiny, what really needs to be questioned, is the basis of how the whole police force is managed, how it operates, how it is led, what it regards as its priorities, and how it regards its role in Malaysian society. 

Musa Hassan and Khalid Abu Bakar's public statements, and their attitudes to the public and to politicians, leave little doubt that a strong streak of arrogance permeates the police force.  

That arrogance led to the scuttling of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, sabotaged by police intransigence and fear of being exposed.

Twenty years ago, the IGP then, Rahim Noor, ruined a professional career by beating up deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in the dungeons of Bukit Aman; the prime minister at the time, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, staunchly defending his man, even suggested that the resulting black eye could have been self-inflicted by Anwar. Had it not been for unrelenting public pressure and public scorn of Mahathir's arrogant and facile explanations, that IGP might have almost got away with it.

For the sake of Malaysian society and the future of all our children, this IGP and his cohort must be called to account. They must not be allowed to get away.

Source: freemalaysiatoday.com

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