More must be done to ensure Malaysian police officers cannot take the law into their own hands

Putrajaya should be more resolute and determined in ensuring that all police and immigration lockups and interrogation rooms are fitted with working CCTVs to prevent rogue police officers from taking laws into their own hands and protecting honest, dedicated and accountable officers in carrying out their duties.

By Kasthuri Patto
MP, Malaysia

In 2013, a pledge was made by the former Bukit Aman Management Director Datuk Mortadza Nazarene that a committee would be set up to ensure the safety of all lock-up inmates in lieu of abuses and deaths in custody. Also 5 police lock-ups in the Jinjang Police Station, Shah Alam Police Station, Indera Mahkota Kuantan Police Station, Bayan Baru Police Station and also the Kota Kinabalu Police Station will be equipped with CCTV cameras, intercom systems, Black Marias, lawyers room, a court room, a control room, an identification parade room, a transit room and a room for meals. He also said that the police will cooperate with the Ministry of Health to conduct medical checks of detainees before being sent to the lockup and a commitment that medical doctor be brought in to inspect the detainees at least once a week.

Have all these pledges made in 2013 been fulfilled and adhered to? Are doctors ferried in into lockups, even in rural areas and interior areas like Sabah and Sarawak to render medical treatment to unwell detainees? Are detainees given a full medical checkup in the initial stages of the detention in lock-ups? If the detainee is unwell, is he given immediate medical treatment or will he be taken to a clinic or hospital after being taken to court first?

Most importantly, who monitors these pledges to ensure that they are followed through? Who is responsible when sick inmates are not given speedy and necessary treatment? Who is responsible when rogue officers take matters into their own hands and bash up inmates in lock-ups, detention centres and prisons in the name of extracting information from them? Is it the duty of the Investigation Officer or any police officer to conduct interrogations or is it the duty of the prosecutor to do that? What is the SOP followed in exerting force to derive information?

In 2016, PDRM Management Director Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said that out of 704 lockups in the country, 58 will be fitted with (Self-Monitoring Analytics Reporting Technology) SMART CCTVs and will be then known as Smart Lockups. 58 CCTVs costing RM 3.5 million saw the first installation in the Jinjang Centralised Lockup Centre as a pilot project, and subsequent installations in all lock-ups thereafter. This May, Bernama reported that all 58 lockups have been installed with the SMART CCTVs.

With only 8% of police lockups fitted with the SMART CCTVs, what then is the status of the installation of the balance 646 CCTVs in lockups nationwide? How much longer is Putrajaya going to drag its feet to ensure that lockups in the country are equipped with these CCTVs?

It is evident that there has been a violation of these pledges and promises, and Putrajaya has committed a colossal violation of human rights by their severe lack of conscience, accountability and commitment in ensuring that miscreant officers don’t get away when they take laws into their own hands. Prime Minister Najib must ensure that ministries and agencies under his administration prove to Malaysians alike that officers who abuse their positions by harming and abusing inmates be suspended, and tried in court like any other person who is subject to the laws of the land.

Regrettably, we are faced with 6 deaths in police custody under 6 months this year alone and none have been accountable for these deaths.

Announcements have been made by the former and current PDRM Director of Management, the Inspector General of Police, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and not forgetting a launch and a pompous announcement by the Prime Minister Najib Razak on the installation of 58 CCTVs in lock-ups nationwide and yet the numbers of deaths in custody are increasing by the month.

The Home Ministry, the IGP and police personnel must understand that the installation of the SMART CCTVs in police lockups will ensure competency, accountability and transparency to protect police officers and also to ensure that law is not taken into anyone’s hands.

Putrajaya should be more resolute and determined in ensuring that all police and immigration lockups and interrogation rooms are fitted with working CCTVs to prevent rouge police officers from taking laws into their own hands and protecting honest, dedicated and accountable officers in carrying out their duties.