Monday, May 25, 2009

PDRM: A tale of the tail wagging the dog

By Tunku Aziz | Malaysian Insider | 25 May 2009

MAY 25 — The only reasonable conclusion I can draw as a reasonable man from the PDRM raid on the DAP headquarters last Saturday evening is that the police leadership need their heads examined for signs of mental degeneration.

It was Euripides (480–406 BC) the Greek playwright who said, “Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.” Police behaviour in recent times has convinced me more than ever that there is something rotten in the state of our country, with apologies to William Shakespeare.

The beleaguered police, as far as we are concerned, are in moral retreat. It beggars the imagination that with all the relentless assault on their reputation, they do not seem to care one iota about public opinion.

This is frightening self-indulgence. To be deaf to public strictures is really a symptom of a deep malaise associated with a diseased culture of impunity that has brutalised the police psyche.

For the guardians of the law to show nothing but utter contempt, disregard and disdain for the legitimate concerns about their actions, often bordering on the criminal, is indeed a serious breach of stewardship and public trust, the antithesis of ethical policing in a democratic society.

I plead guilty to being one of the harshest critics of the police. I am hard on them because I so desperately want them to succeed. At the same time, I can claim to be their admirer when they not only operate within the law, but, more to the point, when they are seen to be both law-abiding and respectful of the rights of every individual under the law.

I want a police service that is among the best that I can be proud of, and not “the best police force in the world that money can buy.”

As a keen observer of the police in action, I can say without fear of contradiction that the standards of policing took a dramatic fall from grace when the greatest-ever Malaysian IGP, Tun Hanif Omar, stepped down.

Hanif (left) was not only a thoroughly competent officer but an ethical one, and, therefore, was able to withstand political pressure, even from Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister of the day whose meddling ways were directly responsible for the dismemberment of many of the country’s most important institutions.

Hanif could stand up to the bully because of his strong personal values: he offered to resign on at least two occasions. His letters of resignation were turned down. As with all bullies, you cannot back down or they will climb on your head.

Sadly, subsequent IGPs, with the exception of Tan Sri Mohd Bakri Omar (right), have, by common consent, been a great disappointment and a disgrace to the uniform.

I have, in keeping with the times, been referring to PDRM as a police service in previous speeches and writings in order to help soften its image. On reflection, I may have been a trifle premature because PDRM is obviously not yet ready to be accorded that designation: it still has a lot of house cleaning to do before it can join the ranks of the police in other parts of the civilized world where accountability is the foundation of ethical policing.

7 May 2009: Perak State Assembly Speaker V. Sivakumar unceremoniously removed from his seat by plainclothes policemen

PDRM must perforce remain a police force that carries with it all the unsavoury connotations of an organisation that has lost its way. With proper leadership, and the necessary political will, PDRM can still find salvation.

It is a great pity because there are thousands upon thousands of honest to goodness people whom we admire, trying very hard to do an honest day’s work to serve the nation, and we salute them for their courage, loyalty and devotion to duty. They are, however, badly officered which leads me to my favourite conclusion that there are no bad policemen and women, only bad officers.

The rot started when ethically deficient, unprofessional officers allowed, without a murmur, the politicisation of the force by Mahathir who used it as a handy tool to manipulate the system in order to advance his own political ambitions.

Brickfields OCPD Wan Bari Wan Abdul Khalid barking at Legal Aid Bureau lawyers
who came to the aid of those arrested for "illegal assembly"

In return, many people believed, rightly or wrongly, that senior officers were given protection against possible prosecution for corruption. A very senior ACA officer, himself not above a bit on the side, now mercifully, in comfortable, contented retirement, claimed in private that he could have put at least 20 corrupt top police officers behind bars without too much trouble, but could not for reasons best known to himself.

As long as we allow the police to dictate terms to us, in particular over the implementation of the IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission), the highlight of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation & Management of the Royal Malaysia Police’s report, we will always be subject to police excesses.

It is a sad commentary that both Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak have seen nothing wrong with the police insubordination of threatening dire repercussions if this important recommendation for the good of both the citizens and the police in a new, open society is “forced” upon them.

Pic courtesy of The Nut Graph

The police, many feel, have got too big for their boots. Has the “People’s Prime Minister” the interests of the people at heart? Given the state of affairs in our country today, may we humbly urge Najib to keep the police on a short leash, and not allow the tail to wag the dog.
Tunku Aziz, one of the prime movers in setting up Transparency International Malaysia, in happier times was regarded by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi as "one man (who) was able to harness his personal passion and deep commitment to the values of ethics and integrity, give it a larger purpose and meaning, and turn it into a force to transform society for the better." Why then was he left out of the MACC Advisory Group? He is regarded as being too outspoken for comfort and, therefore, difficult to handle.