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Ombudsman system fully supported but not to kill the IPCMC proposal, which is a form of Police ´┐ŻOmbudsman´┐Ż, which should be set up by next month as proposed by the Royal Police Commission


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Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  
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(Parliament
, Monday) :I welcome the statement yesterday by the Minister in the Prime Minister´┐Żs Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz that the government is working on the idea of an Ombudsman or an independent body to address and investigate complaints against all government departments and agencies, including Ministers to enable the government to be fair to the people and enhance the government delivery system. 

I have been advocating for an Ombudsman system for Malaysia in the  past 40 years as the lynchpin of the government blueprint  to ensure an effective, efficient, open and just public service delivery system, and I will be the first to applaud the government if it is prepared to adopt such a bold and forward-looking concept of good governance.

 

However, while I fully support the introduction of an Ombudsman system, it should not be at the expense of killing the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) proposal of the Royal Police Commission.

 

The argument that it was unfair for the police to be monitored by the IPCMC when many other complaints made against the public sector, like customs, road transport department, land office, etc, are not investigated in like manner does not hold water.

 

Any suggestion that the IPCMC should be shelved until the appointment of Ombudsmen for the public service covering all other government departments and agencies is highly fallacious for the following reasons:

 

Firstly, the example of other countries, where an external oversight mechanism over the police like the proposed IPCMC, co-exists with the Ombudsman system. In the United Kingdom, for instance, there is the Independent  Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) as well as a whole array of Ombudsman services, such as the Parliamentary Ombudsman on maladministration, Local Government Ombudsman, Health Service Ombudsman, Housing Ombudsman, etc.

 

The same applies to many other countries, such as Australia and Canada. In Hong Kong, there is not only an Ombudsmen system, but also an Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), the famous Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Human Rights Commission.

 

In fact, the proposed IPCMC mooted by the Royal Police Commission, like the  IPCC in United Kingdom and Hong Kong, and  their counterparts in other countries, are actually a form of ´┐ŻPolice Ombudsman´┐Ż to exercise external oversight over police excesses and abuses of power.

 

Secondly, there is nothing unfair to the police vis-´┐Ż-vis  the other enforcement agencies  in having an IPCMC, or it will be unfair to have had two Police Royal Commissions when no Royal Commission had been established for the other departments and agencies, whether customs,  immigration, road transport department, land office, etc.  The whole idea is not to confer immunity to the other government departments and agencies from external oversight mechanisms but for the IPCMC to be the first ´┐ŻOmbudsman´┐Ż to be set up in the country which will eventually cover all government services as is the global trend in good governance.

 

Thirdly, the argument that the establishment of IPCMC is unacceptable as it is humiliating and insulting to the police force when only a small number of ´┐Żblack sheep´┐Ż are involved is also untenable.  If the police in developed countries like United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the  United States can accept the idea of external oversight mechanisms, why is  the Malaysian police so resistant to the IPCMC proposal  which can only enhance public confidence in the police?

 

This raises the question whether the Police in Malaysia accept the democratic principle that the police is  subordinate to civilian authority and accountability or they believe that they are a law unto themselves.

 

In summation, let me reiterate ´┐Ż the idea of Ombudsman system deserves full support  and is in fact long overdue when it should have been introduced four decades ago but any ulterior  motive or agenda to kill the IPCMC proposal or stall its establishment next month must be rejected.

 

The Francis Udayapan case and the long list of police custody deaths which had not been properly investigated in inquests as required by law, which has attracted the recent criticism of the Chief Judge, Justice Siti Normah Yaacob,    have strengthened the case for the establishment of IPCMC since the publication of the Royal Police Commission Report nearly a year ago.

 

Nazri said the Attorney-General is studying the various aspects and laws of introducing the Ombudsman system.

 

Whether Malaysia introduces an Ombudsman system to enhance government efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness is a policy question to be decided by Cabinet and Parliament and not the Attorney-General, who only comes in when the policy decision is made in order to fine-tune the necessary legislation, regulations and directives to implement the policy decision.


(10/04/2006)     
                                                      


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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