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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Nothing more than 'paper tiger' - Bar Council on IPCC bill


The Malaysian Bar Council today likened the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) bill to a “paper tiger”.

Its president Karen Cheah Yee Lynn alleged that the IPCC bill failed to live up to the collective expectations of a more transparent and better-regulated police force.

“In the absence of sufficient enforcement powers, the IPCC is nothing more like a paper tiger or show.

“It is beyond any shadow of a doubt that the IPCC is an affront to the rule of law. And it is a step backwards in regard to creating a police force that strives to operate with honour and integrity.

“Instead, it is one that entrenches impunity and turns a blind eye to the very real problems that institutions face,” she said during her keynote speech at the Bar Council’s public forum on the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) bill and the way forward.

The term “paper tiger” translates from the Chinese phrase zhǐlǎohǔ, which refers to something that claims or appears to be powerful or threatening.


The IPCC bill was tabled in Parliament in August 2020.

This is despite the first tabling of the IPCMC Bill in Dewan Rakyat in July 2019, 14 years after the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police recommended the creation of an independent body to address complaints against the police.

However, the IPCMC Bill was referred to the Parliament’s Special Select Committee for further discussion three months later.

The bill was again sent to the Dewan Rakyat for first reading by the Pakatan Harapan government in December 2019 with 37 amendments made.

A comparison showed that the IPCC bill has been significantly watered down from the previous IPCMC bill.

One key difference is that the IPCC will not be able to take any action against errant police officers. Instead, action must be referred to the Police Force Commission or other relevant authorities for further action.

The IPCC also lost the ability to review complaints of police officers who do not comply with rules or standard operating procedures, who do not justify their actions when justification should be provided, and who commit criminal offences.

However, the IPCC does expand on the IPCMC by requiring police to report to the commission any cases of sexual offences under police custody, on top of cases of injuries or death in detention.

Commissioners appointments

Cheah, in her speech, also noted that the commissioners governed by the IPCC bill are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong upon the advice of the prime minister.

The chief executive officer of the commission is also appointed by the home minister, she said.

“This further undermines any form of impartiality in this oversight mechanism, causing it to become further intertwined with the executive,” she said.

She also said that Section 5(b) of the bill which requires the commission to notify premises such as lockups and detention centres ahead of visits, would ultimately make the visit ineffective.

Cheah added that notifying the agencies will allow them time to make arrangements in advance, which may not be reflective of the actual situation at the premises.

Meanwhile, Bar Council Task Force on IPCMC and Police Accountability M Ramachelvam during the forum called the IPCC a “very flawed bill”, claiming that it would fail to bring about police accountability.

He said that the only way forward would be to amend the bill in Parliament or redraft a new bill altogether.

Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran has urged the government back in March to stop delaying the debates on the IPCC.

The bill has been listed in Parliament's Order Paper for two years but has not been debated. - Mkini

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