Press Statement: 16 April 2012
Limited Reforms, But Wide Powers provided to the Police to Protect National Security
SUARAM is alarmed by the Home Minister’s statement that the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) will not limit the powers of the police (Source: Bernama 15 April 2012). The Security Offences Bill (special measures) tabled on 10 April, this year, once again provides excessive powers to the police with limited oversight or accountability. SUARAM has been concerned about these powers since the legislation was tabled and the remarks made by the Minister have confirmed our doubts and strengthened our call for the bill to be cancelled immediately.
Laws should be made by taking into account the views of the people, not the police alone!
The statement quoted the minister as “the new bill would not have been tabled if police as the ‘end users’, who ensure the security of the country, are not comfortable with it’. This sends out a message that the government and Home Minister never had the desire to take into account the views of the people, but have been only concerned with how the police view the law because of their role as law-enforcers. This position once again confirms the view of civil society and many others that Malaysia is a police state and the police can operate without accountability.
Clause 4 of the new bill allows a person to detained for 28 days without being brought before a judge and would also give the police broad powers to conduct searches and intercept communications without a judicial warrant and will allow for abuse of power by the police
The history of human rights violations by the police, documented over the years by SUARAM, while using repressive laws such as Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance (EO-Public Order and Crime Prevention 1969) clearly shows why the police should not be given such broad powers. There has been a lack of justice and accountability for a range of human rights violations by the police such torture and ill-treatment, deaths in custody, unlawful police shootings, and abuse of power and corruption in the police force. This has contributed to the lack of support and trust in the Malaysian police.
Today’s police service in Malaysia has failed to realise the goals set for the establishment of a truly modern, representative and democratic police service. There has been a lack of progress in reforming the Malaysian police service over the years and effective police oversight mechanisms do not exist at all. Yet the government has once again provided the police with a wide range of powers in the name of national security.
The reform of the police is crucial for the development of a stable democracy. The reform of the police is crucial for the development of a stable democracy, and the development of political and social structures representative of the values and needs of society. The government need to recognise the crucial role that the reform of the police plays in stabilising societies. Furthermore, the police reform process should be viewed in the context of the need for a comprehensive review of the the criminal justice system and police accountability.
Respect for human rights and the presumption of innocence are the cornerstones of a fair and impartial criminal justice system. These principles must transcend the work of the police, be reflected in accountability procedures and define the manner of their interaction with the public.
We are very concerned about the excessive powers given to police in this bill as it will merely act to further restrict fundamental rights and provide wide powers to a police force that has failed to undergo reform and implement the recommendations by the 2005 Royal Commission on Policing dealing with human rights.
SUARAM believes that the current bill will strengthen the current climate of impunity and exacerbate the abuse of power by the police.
Therefore, SUARAM would like to demand the following:
1. Withdraw and cancel the bill immediately
2. We urge the government to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as per the recommendations made by the 2005 Royal Commission on Policing without further delay.
3. All persons currently detained under the ISA to be released immediately and unconditionally and be provided reparations equivalent to the torture and sufferings that was experienced by the detainees and family members;
4. Establish a Truth Commission to review all past ISA arrests with a view to bring perpetrators of of torture and ill-treatment as well as other human rights violations committed against former detainees to justice in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards;
5. The Government must abolish all other detention without trial laws such as the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA)
Executive Director SUARAM