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(Petaling Jaya, Monday):
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak’s announcement this morning that the government has not approved the establishment of the ICPMC has only highlighted how far Malaysia has to go before we can become a civil society with enjoyments of the basic rights and norms of democracy.
The general confusion over whether the government would be establishing an ombudsman or the Independent Commission on Police Misconduct And Complaints (IPCMC) will not inspire confidence in the government’s seriousness in improving its delivery system and the quality of life of the people. These were amongst the two main thrusts of the National Mission outlined by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s in his Ninth Malaysian Plan to make Malaysia a developed nation by 2020.
The “now you see it, now you don’t” Ombudsman would be an entertaining magic show if it was not so funny by breeding uncertainty, undermine the credibility of Abdullah’s administration and feed further concerns of decisiveness over his leadership. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak this morning clarified that the government had not made any decision on the setting up of an ombudsman.
Najib directly contradicted a statement by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz yesterday that the government would set up an ombudsman to look into the complaints against the authorities, including ministers. Mohamed Nazri had said it was unfair for the police to be monitored when many other complaints made against the public sector were not investigated including government enforcement agencies such as Customs, Road Transport Department, Anti-Corruption Agency, Land and Mines Department, even wakil rakyats and the ministers.
DAP expresses full support for the establishment of the ombudsman, especially widening its jurisdiction to investigate ministers. However an ombudsman should not negate or give the government an excuse to wriggle out of the commitment made by the Prime Minister to implement the recommendation of the Royal Commission of Police to set up the IPCMC.
Any failure to set up an IPCMC would not only adversely affect the reputation of Abdullah as the Prime Minister in charge and full control of the Cabinet and the police. It would also nullify all the good work, effort, time and money expended on the Royal Commission of Police to reform the police and stop abuses of power and corruption. For Abdullah to immediately back down and surrender when the IGP publicly announced his disagreement with the Prime Minister on setting up the ICPMC shows that the IGP and not the Prime Minister is in charge of the police.
To show who is boss, Abdullah has to take disciplinary action against the IGP for such an act of indiscipline in publicly repudiating him. Abdullah’s failure to do so and Nazri’s announcement that the ICPMC will not be formed has unfortunately highlighted that he is probably the only man in Cabinet wanting to reform the police.
Worse, even the ombudsman, which is designed to take the sting out of the rejection of the ICPMC, may now not be established based on today’s comments by Najib. Public interests and accountability requires the Prime Minister to publicly clear the confusion and clarify the situation to let the public know the actual situation as well as state the reasons behind it.