Police Reform Uncategorized

Give Parliament More Oversight on the Appointment of Top Cops

We ought to have a serious conversation about reforming our security sector and strengthening the oversight mechanism, so that it can serve the country and its people better.

In his recent final farewell speech, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Hamid Bador has dropped a bombshell when he accused the home minister, Dato’ Sri Hamzah Zainuddin for overly interfering in matters regarding the police force. 

While we are not privy to what really happens internally in the Royal Malaysia Police and are unable to verify those statements, it is rare to see an outgoing IGP made such serious and personal allegations. For that reason alone, his statements must not be ignored. Further, an audio clip has been leaked where the home minister is allegedly indicating his wish to put his loyallist (“our boy”) as the next IGP. 

These incidents have provided us some pointers to ponder regarding the governance of the police force, especially on the appointment of top police officers, i.e. how do we provide check and balance in this often opaque process?

The IGP refers to the Police Force Commission (Suruhanjaya Pasukan Polis, or SPP), which is headed by the Minister of Home Affairs. The SPP is established by Article 140 of the Federal Constitution. It is composed of the Minister of Home Affairs as the chairperson, the IGP, the Chief Secretary, a representative from the Public Service Commission, and 2 to 6 members appointed by the King. 

The Commission is supposed to appoint and regulate the promotion and transfer of the top ranking members of the police force. It should be noted that apart from the members directly appointed by the YDPA, the other memberships are given to the office bearers, not individuals, which also means that the minister will only be the chairman while he is in office.

While the Minister might be right to say that he is acting with his powers as the chairman of the SPP, it is clear that the operation of the SPP is not transparent, while the leaked audio clip has pointed to favoritism and conflict of interest on his part. There is no check and balance and the power only lies in a small group of people. Even though the appointment of the top officers are technically the King’s prerogative, in practice His Majesty only exercises that power via SPP and usually appoint based on their advice.

It is perhaps time that we give this matters some further thoughts. After all, the selection of the country’s top cops have very significant impact on our national security, which will in turn affect our daily lives as Malaysia. 

Parliament should have a say in oversight in this matter. The bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and Home Affairs must be consulted when new police officers above certain grade is appointed, before the appointments are submitted to the King for his Royal Assent. By doing so, it allows the matter to be discussed by elected representatives who are answerable to the public. This also take away the concentration of powers in the hand of the SPP members. 

At the moment, our Parliament has no standing whatsoever to weigh in on the issue, not to mention the Emergency Declaration that has suspended its sitting. Nevertheless, we ought to have a serious conversation about reforming our security sector and strengthening the oversight mechanism, so that it can serve the country and its people better.

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