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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
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.