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Sunday, May 2, 2021

Political interference will estrange the police force from society

 

From Karen Cheah Yee Lynn

Abdul Hamid Bador’s recent call that the Police Force Commission (SPP) should not be chaired by a minister to prevent any political interference is a timely one. It appears from the newspaper article that there may have been interference in the management of the police force in the form of appointments of CPOs, Bukit Aman directors and inspector-general of police.

His proposal to have a non-politician as SPP chairman is a wise call. As he so succinctly put it “If a minister chairs the SPP, political elements will seep into the commission.”

What is the consequence of politicians interfering in the management of the police force and will the appointment of key officials within the police force affect the society?

Going back to our legal framework, the structure of SPP members is contained in Article 140(3) of the Federal Constitution which states that the SPP shall consist of the minister for the time being charged with responsibility for the police (home minister), who shall be the chairman; the officer of police in general command of the police force; the person performing the duties of the office of secretary-general of the ministry under the minister for the time being charged with responsibility for the police; a member of the Public Service Commission appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong; no less than two or more than six other members appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Obviously, Malaysians are legally constrained by the role of one of its SPP members (home minister) who also acts as chairman within the SPP, since it is provided for constitutionally.

However, we must take cognisance of the fact there are other members within the SPP who must provide the necessary check and balance in such appointments. Decisions on who would be fit and proper to be appointed within the police force must surely be made by the entire SPP board, rather than by the home minister alone, and surely it must go through good screening practices established solely in the interest of the Malaysian public so that the police force can properly carry out their expected societal duties.

Politicians interfering in the appointment of official police administrators can often mean that these officials can be fired just as easily, if they do not toe the line. The ‘line’ spoken of, is of course the ‘political line’, and not societal lines.

When police officials are appointed by politicians, it is palpable that the style of law enforcement, implemented societal policies and policing norms can and will be heavily influenced by politics and those that appointed them. It erodes police legitimacy, as they become viewed as a mere tool in the hands of a political candidate or party. The question of impartiality of police officers regarding the outcome of the duties will definitely be called into question by members of the public.

The police cannot be endorsing politicians, nor by the same token, can politicians be endorsing CPOs, Bukit Aman directors and the IGP. Police are seen to bring before the courts people accused of criminal activities. What of corruption and abuse of power when politicians appoint CPOs, Bukit Aman directors and the IGP?

Needless to say, political intervention in the appointment of Malaysia’s CPOs, Bukit Aman directors and the IGP is certainly an erosion of democracy. It does not augur well for the country if the home minister has such power.

The police force is entrusted to take care of the safety of the community and ensuring that the law is implemented equally across the board as per Article 8 of our Federal Constitution. The police force contributes towards problem resolution and community policing, and should not add to the contracting democratic space within the nation so apparent currently.

SPP board members – do take your role within SPP seriously for our nation, lest the public would become more and more estranged from the police force (and the politicians) – or we may just heed the call for the SPP structure to be changed by way of a constitutional amendment. - FMT

Karen Cheah Yee Lynn is a lawyer and member of the Bar Council.

The views expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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