Speech by Lim Kit Siang at the DAP Sungai Siput candlelight vigil/ceramah for a Clean Malaysia held at Kg Sg Buloh, Sungai Siput on Tuesday, 2nd August 2011 at 9 pm:
IGP and top police officers should stop issuing arbitrary and politically-inspired directives
The past five weeks before and after the 709 Bersih 2.0 rally for a free and fair elections must be one of the most difficult times for ordinary police personnel all over the country in recent years, for they were forced to become bullies instead of being “friends and protectors” of the people whose first priority is to reduce crime to make people safe.
In these five weeks, police throughout the country were forced to comply with arbitrary and politically-inspired directives from the top police leadership whose primary objective is not to make the ordinary Malaysian people safe but to protect the existing regime in power.
Police were required to hound the public for wearing the innocuous Bersih T-shirt to the extent that xanthophobia (irrational fear of yellow) became a commonplace word with police not only arresting persons wearing the yellow-coloured Bersih 2.0 T-shirt but even for wearing yellow T-shirts!
There can be no doubt that when the police personnel had to arrest unarmed and defenceless Malaysians just for wearing the Bersih T-shirt or even for wearing yellow T-shirts, most police men and women knew in their heart of hearts that although they were acting under directives from above, their actions were most stupid, unreasonable and anti-people which did not enhance public respect and esteem for the police in particular and all other authorities in general.
Police were required to lockdown the capital city of Kuala Lumpur creating infernal traffic congestions on public roads, even before the planned Bersih 2.0 peaceful rally on July 9, 2011.
Although one of the objectives of the tight and high-handed police clampdown on the 709 Bersih 2.0 is to create public anger against the Bersih organisers and their supporters for causing such public inconveniences, in actual fact most people blame the Barisan Nasional government and the police for being the real cause for such public inconveniences through their unjustified overreaction to the Bersih 2.0 rally.
Who believes that the police were right and justified in their June 25 arrests of the PSM activists for “waging war against the Agong” and reviving communism or in the subsequent detention of the PSM6 under Emergency Ordinance from June 2 to 29 for being “prime movers” of Bersih 2.0 or in hauling them to court with charges of having “subversive documents” in the Butterworth court this monring?
In 2004, the then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tried to restore public confidence in the police as efficient, incorruptible, professional and world-class police service to make Malaysians safe from crime by establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by former Chief Justice Tun Dzaiddin and former Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar.
Although the most important recommendation of the Dzaiddin Royal Commission in 2005 to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) was not accepted, the police authorities made efforts in the past six years to restore public confidence in its efficiency, independence and professionalism.
However, all these efforts in the past six years to restore public confidence in the independence, efficiency and professionalism of the Malaysian police have all be undone in the past five weeks, when the police took the sides of the government-of-the-day against the people by coming down hard in a clampdown on the scheduled peaceful Bersih 2.0 arrests, committing gross abuses of power in arbitrary arrests, lockdown of Kuala Lumpur and the indiscriminate firing of tear gas and chemically-laced water cannon against peaceful crowds.
One important lesson from the Bersih 2.0 episode is that the Inspector-General of Police and top police officers should stop issuing arbitrary and politically-inspired directives which embarrass police throughout the country and compromise their role “friends and protectors” of the people, as the most important role of the police must be to keep people safe from criminals and not to protect their political masters from accountability and responsibility through the fullest exercise by ordinary Malaysians of their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and clean political governance.
Can the present top police leadership learn this important lesson of democratic policing – to forcefully move away from the colonial police role of regime protection to that of a democratic society where the first task of the police is to serve the citizenry to keep them safe from crime and not to insulate the government from democratic responsibility and accountability?
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor