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MGG: Suhakam Biased, Government Not, Suhakam Biased ...
By M.G.G. Pillai

11/9/2001 11:11 pm Tue

The Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed, was sure Suhakam behaved as NGOs in the West and its reports not worth the paper it is written on; the deputy prime minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is in no doubt it is unfair even if he had not read it; the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, did not read it, would not co-operate with Suhakam, but is sure the police is libelled. The parliamentary secretary to the ministry of information, Senator Zainuddin Maidin, wanted Suhakam to have cleared the report with the government before releasing it. The foreign minister, Dato' Seri Syed Hamid Albar, wants it to be more circumspect in how it handles public inquiries, means it must ensure the government comes out smelling of roses even if objects to putting its version before it.

In other words, it must be shown to Malaysians that the Royal Malaysia Police are not attracted to opposition gatherings in the Klang Valley as the police in a small American town against blacks. A cabinet subcommittee is set up to look into the Suhakam report flaws. To show it is impartial, Dato' Seri Abdullah, the man who insists the report is hogwash, heads it. Twentyfour hours later, it is not a cabinet committee anymore but a general committee. Make no mistake about it. This committee will discuss the issue rationally as a crowd at a lynching, and the expected fair result would set the record straight.

However you look at it, the government stumbled badly, as in the Royal Commission which winkled out the Inspector-General of Police, not the incumbent, for bodily assaulting just detained former deputy prime minister, one Anwar Ibrahim, to a pulp, after every one from Dr Mahathir down was sure he did not. He was jailed for two months, a mere slap in the wrist. (But it raised the propensity for police violence in that those guilty could be as lightly treated; if beating up the just sacked deputy prime minister would earn only a two month jail sentence, then many who were at the Kesas highway incident Suhakam wrote of could have expected a medal or two for their lawlessness.) Both, you would recall, were acts of bravery to save the nation from the likes of those who disagree with Dr Mahathir.

The government will not accept the police would beat up people, and those who allege it malign the guardians of the law. But the police the world over, not just in Miami or Kuala Lumpur, when not properly supervised, get out of hand, as indeed any group would. Here, the situation is compounded with a belief that any who challenges the Prime Minister is Public Enemy Number One. The indiscriminate killing of Indians is well recorded. The MIC is not interested in it, even if some killed were MIC branch committee members. The high record of police killings go unheard or unaddressed.

When the police are put on a pedestal and its action unaccountable, it would take, in the normal course of events, the law into its own hands. When its top officers are appointed on their loyalty to the Prime Minister, not on their competence, it necessarily follows one cannot expect the police its job properly. When it would not justify its actions before a body formed by Parliament, in arrogance, its actions would mirror the worst of police actions around the world. The Suhakam report is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The government and the police misread the ground when it stayed away from the Suhakam hearings. Claiming the report is unfair to the police is no longer the point. It is the arrogance with which the police and government agencies deliberately ignored the hearings and brought them into this mess.

The government knows it is on weak grounds. What could the Abdullah Badawi report, under cabinet auspices or not, do when all it could is to whitewash the police role? Or to put it another way, could the report echo the Suhakam findings? The Kesas Highway incident was an opposition dare but the organisers took the right steps to be within the law. The police decided it would not under any circumstances, and overreacted. It is this clash of attitudes that comes through in the Suhakam report. The opposition was happy to cooperate with the Suhakam inquiry as the police was not; it wanted no more than the moral victory it got. The police helped them along by not co-operating with it.

Before the events of September 1998, the police would have prevailed. The Malay cultural ground would have backed the government in whatever it did or did not do. Not any more. The the Malay ground recedes further from the government the longer it is in office. The government is in suspended animation, without the moral authority to govern but insists it has with its electoral authority. It needs the people's support; but since it always insisted that the voters have no further rights after electing the National Front into office, the people are not about to tell the government where it goes wrong. But they know they sit on a powderkeg, and look to the opposition to save them from that finality. But the dissembled opposition is not ready for that. So what good is this Abdullah Ahmad Badawi report? It would be made to the Cabinet first and then possibly put into the public domain. It does not matter what happens. It has already lost the ground in this matter.

M.G.G. Pillai

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