Malaysian parliament passes controversial IPCC bill on police oversight

Malaysia passed the Independent Police Conduct Commission (IPCC) Bill 2020 in parliament yesterday after it was stuck in limbo for almost two years. The bill was tabled by Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin and then passed via a majority voice vote.

The IPCC bill was drafted to replace The Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill, which was an initiative by the then Pakatan Harapan administration.

However, human rights activists have decried the bill in the past, saying it is a watered-down version of the IPCMC and that it protects the police rather than holding them accountable.

Opposition lawmakers were also quick to criticize the bill publicly yesterday, although that same spirit was not shown when the IPCC bill was being voted on in parliament.

In a statement posted on social media yesterday, Pakatan Harapan said it rejected the bill as it did not meet the expected institutional reforms.

The statement was issued by the PH Presidential Council, which is comprised of PKR President Anwar Ibrahim, Amanah President Mohamad Sabu, DAP secretary-general Loke Siew Fook and Upko president Wilfred Madius Tangau.

They pointed out that the bill was lacking investigative powers and that it did not provide for a disciplinary body.

In contrast to the present Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC), it also needed the home minister to approve the nomination of its secretary, PH said.

In addition, it stated that IPCC commissioners might be fired at any moment and that the bill was weaker than the EAIC.

For example, the IPCMC Bill had proposed that:

 “The Commission may initiate investigations notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, the Commission may commence an investigation on its own initiative but only if the Commission is satisfied that the subject matter of the investigation is of significant interest to the public or that it is in the public interest to do so whether or not there is a complaint of misconduct relating to it”.

However, with the IPCC, any complaints to the commission that had been the subject of inquiries by its members would then be forwarded to a complaints committee.

The complaints committee’s conclusions and suggestions may be sent to pertinent organizations like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or the commission may ask a task force to conduct more investigations.

The IPCC bill also removed recommendations such as the authority to exercise disciplinary jurisdiction over any complaints regarding the misconduct of any member of the police force as well as disciplinary jurisdiction over any misconduct committed by any member of the force.

On Monday, Amnesty International warned that if the bill passed, it would only serve to protect police officers from external criticism and accountability.

“The IPCC Bill fails to address widespread public concerns about police misconduct, ongoing misuse of power against government critics, and custodial deaths.

“If passed, the bill would not promote accountability as the government claims, but rather shield police officers from scrutiny and independent oversight,” Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv, said.