Monday, June 3, 2013

Enforcement oversight body has just one officer to investigate 19 agencies, says CEO

Nor Afizah Hanum says the EAIC only has one investigating officer and an annual budget of RM7 million.

The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) has acknowledged it is hamstrung by only having one investigating officer to probe complaints of misconduct against 19 enforcement agencies, as public outcry grows over deaths in police custody.

It also has an annual budget of just RM7 million.

EAIC CEO Nor Afizah Hanum Mokhtar said the commission has 23 staff members, including the investigating officer, clerks, a driver, legal adviser, administrative officer and an operations director.

“We have very limited manpower,” Nor Afizah Hanum told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview at her office here yesterday.

“We had six investigator posts that we got from MACC. They withdrew five on 16th May,” she added, referring to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Amid the outcry over recent deaths in police custody, there has been growing calls from the opposition and the Bar Council for the government to set up an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

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The Malaysian Bar, civil society groups and several politicians from both sides of the divide have called for the IPCMC to be implemented to reform the police force since 2006.

The IPCMC, which was mooted by a royal commission chaired by former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah but shot down by the police, was to be modelled on the United Kingdom’s Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as well as other police oversight bodies in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, and Hong Kong.

Speaking to The Malaysian Insider yesterday Nor Afizah Hanum said the sole investigating officer remaining at the EAIC also came from the MACC and has 11 years’ experience as an investigator.

The MACC, in contrast, has a budget of RM276 million this year and will receive an additional 150 posts annually to boost its manpower from 2,500 staff to 5,000, English daily The Star reported last September.

The EAIC, which was set up in April 2011, investigates complaints of misconduct against the police force, the Immigration Department, the Customs Department, the Rela Corps, the National Anti-Drug Agency, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the Department of Environment, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Registration Department (NRD), the Department of Civil Aviation, the Road Transport Department (RTD), the Department of Industrial Relations, the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the Manpower Department, the Health Ministry (Enforcement), the Tourism Ministry (Enforcement and Licensing units), the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry (Enforcement) and the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government (Enforcement).

Nor Afizah Hanum said the EAIC needed an annual budget of at least RM25 million, as well as at least 10 investigating officers and 10 research officers.

“We hope to expand till 78 personnel... we have a requirement for research officers to work in a taskforce to study rules and procedures and do visits to lock-ups, prisons,” she said.

She added that the EAIC has received 469 complaints as of May 31 this year since it was formed in 2011, with 353 complaints against the police. Twenty-one complaints were lodged against the Immigration Department, 15 against the RTD, 10 against the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, and nine against the Customs Department.

She said the EAIC, however, has yet to receive complaints of deaths in custody, police shootings or assault by enforcement officers.

“We haven’t received complaints of a criminal element,” said Nor Afizah Hanum.

She added that the complaints ranged from police inaction on cases, inaction of immigration authorities against illegal immigrants, a policeman having an affair with someone else’s wife, or the NRD revealing one’s personal particulars to another party without consent.

The former Sessions Court judge said investigations were opened for 124 out of 469 complaints, with one case resulting in a recommendation of disciplinary action against the police.

In that case, a complaint had been lodged against a police officer mid-last year for closing a case after three days.

“We recommended for him to be demoted,” she said, adding that she was unsure if the police had implemented the EAIC’s recommendation.

According to human rights group Suaram, 218 cases of alleged deaths in custody in Malaysia took place from 2000 to this month, with its records showing that nine of those cases occurred in 2012, while eight cases occurred so far this year.

The latest death in custody was of P. Karuna Nithi, 43, in the Tampin police station lock-up last Saturday, just 11 days after N. Dharmendran, 32, was beaten to death on May 21 while under remand at the city police contingent headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The Home Ministry reportedly told Parliament last October that 298 people were shot dead by the police between 2007 and August 2012, including 151 Indonesians and 134 Malaysians, which is an average of one deadly shooting a week.

A United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 2010 visit to Malaysian prisons and detention centres reported in 2011 that between 2003 and 2007, “over 1,500 people died while being held by authorities.”

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