Mohamad Fuzi Harun retired as Malaysia’s police chief last week after being criticized for failing to act promptly over a corruption scandal linked to ex-premier Najib Razak, while a senior policeman who had been ousted after speaking out against the fiasco succeeded him.
Abdul Hamid Bador, the 61-year-old son of a constable is the new chief of the Royal Malaysia Police, a federal-level force composed of 130,000 officers. He was hired as the nation’s top policeman on a special two-year contract, although he had surpassed the mandatory retirement age of 60.
“I am honored to be given the trust to lead the force,” Abdul Hamid said after Fuzi handed him the reins of the police department on Friday, according to Malaysia’s Star newspaper.
Fuzi praised his successor during the ceremony, saying “He is the right man for the job.”
“I am confident that he will be able to carry on the legacy of excellence and elevate the police force even further,” Fuzi said, according to the Star.
Abdul Hamid was reinstated on the national force as deputy chief by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad soon after the Pakatan Harapan coalition ousted Najib’s government in the May 2018 general election.
Abdul Hamid had retired four years ago after Najib’s government transferred him out of the force. That move came after he spoke out against the scandal tied to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund founded by Najib in 2009.
When he was deputy chief of the police’s Special Branch, Abdul Hamid openly criticized Najib’s administration, alleging that the prime minister declined to follow his department’s advice about 1MDB.
Fuzi, who turned 60 on May 4, succeeded Khalid Abu Bakar as Inspector General of Police (IGP) in September 2017. But rumors about Fuzi’s forthcoming removal from the top police post began to circulate several weeks after he helped the new Pakatan government in its transition to power.
On May 10, 2018 – a day after the election – Fuzi convened a news conference in Kuala Lumpur at which he urged all parties to cooperate for a smooth transition between governments.
The police chief, the military commander, and the chief secretary had made plans to seek an audience with Malaysia’s king on the matter soon to avoid any unrest following to the electoral defeat of the Barisan Nasional coalition.
“During the meeting, we agreed that the process should be done as soon as possible,” Fuzi told reporters.
“We will seek an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V [the king] as soon as possible to brief him on the transition of powers,” Fuzi said then.
But two months later, rumors swirled that Fuzi would be removed as police chief due to his perceived failure to act swiftly when the 1MDB scandal first became public in July 2015 while he was chief of the special branch, the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysia Police.
A highly placed source told BenarNews the reason for efforts at that time to remove Fuzi, who officially retired on Friday.
“Dereliction of duty, a failure to investigate criminal action on 1MDB,” the source said.
Fuzi also came under scrutiny over contradictory comments he had made about an associate of Najib: Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho.
Better known as Jho Low, the businessman is now a fugitive from the law and a major figure in international investigations into the 1MDB scandal, from which billions of dollars were allegedly embezzled.
“Jho Low is not part of 1MDB and has never worked for the company. Every business transaction was made by the board of directors,” Fuzi was quoted as saying in March 2018, two months before the general election, according to the Malay-language daily Berita Harian.
However, Fuzi said something different after Pakatan Harapan came to power.
In a report published by The Star, Fuzi said his men had been tracking Jho Low and were cooperating with various counterparts abroad, including from China.
“Our discussions with our counterparts are ongoing and a few officers have been tasked for the engagement. I know many people said he (Jho Low) is in China but it is not definitive,” The Star quoted him as saying.
Fuzi did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BenarNews.
Abdul Hamid: ‘I must set a good example’
On May 1, two days before Fuzi’s retirement, Mahathir announced that Fuzi would be replaced by Abdul Hamid.
Despite his early career in general policing duties, Abdul Hamid was virtually unknown in the public eye. But in 2014, his name emerged as being among the main negotiators in Lahad Datu, when a band of fighters from nearby Sulu, Philippines launched an incursion into the eastern Malaysia state of Sabah.
Abdul Hamid was also awarded the Bhayankara Nararya Star, the highest award by the Indonesian government, after helping authorities in the neighboring country cripple cells associated with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and pro-Islamic State (IS) militants.
With 40 years of experience in the police force, Abdul Hamid has a huge task at hand: to get his officers to toe the line and clean up any abuse of power and corruption within the force.
“One must realize that a thousand bad cops do not represent a hundred thousand good ones out there,” Abdul Hamid told the Sun newspaper.
“These fine police personnel have long been marginalized and I assure them that under my watch, only the good ones will be counted,” he was quoted as saying on Sunday.
“But first, I must set a good example,” he said.