Home Minister Interferes in Police Affairs, Malaysia’s Outgoing Top Cop Says

Hadi Azmi and Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
2021-04-30
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Home Minister Interferes in Police Affairs, Malaysia’s Outgoing Top Cop Says Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin (left) hands Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani a letter appointing him as Malaysia’s 13th Inspector General of Police, in Putrajaya, Malaysia, April 30, 2021.
[S.Mahfuz/BenarNews]

In his final press conference, Malaysia’s outgoing police chief blasted his boss on Friday for intervening in daily departmental affairs, saying this hampered his work and divided the force.

The meddling continued even after he reported it to the prime minister, Police Inspector-General Abdul Hamid Bador said. But his boss, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin, said he had the authority to involve himself in police matters.

“He [the home minister] is only given the mandate to set policies, the direction of the police force. It is not his job to decide who becomes police commissioner and where, or who becomes the director and where. … Hamzah insisted on assuming the power to decide who will be placed where,” Abdul Hamid told reporters.

“This made it difficult for me to perform my duties. This led to factions siding with different officials. I hope this does not continue. It is not good for the country, it’s not good.”

Abdul Hamid said he had spoken to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin about the interference.

“I brought it up twice with the prime minister … but nothing was done,” he said.

For his part, Hamzah said that, in his capacity as home minister, he chaired the Police Force Commission and therefore had the right to decide on the placement of police personnel.

“I am the chairperson of the Police Force Commission. I want to inform you that in the constitution, the chairperson of the police commission is the highest position to determine assignments for police officers,” Hamzah said at a press conference earlier on Friday, according to local media outlet Malaysiakini.

He made the comment while acknowledging Friday that he was the one speaking in a widely-shared audio clip leaked online earlier this month, in which he talked with an unidentified person about his power to promote and appoint senior police officials.

“I admit it. It was my voice. I have done no wrong. The one who is wrong here is the person who taped my conversation. That is an offense. What I did, is not,” Hamzah said.

In the clip, the minister is heard saying he would make some appointments to please King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Mustafa Billah Shah.

“What if we give it to our boy, we have to promote him ... His Majesty will definitely like him. I am now the chairman of Police Force Commission ... that’s why I will choose those who I know that His Majesty will like,” the minister is heard saying.

Custody death

However, the outgoing police chief said the home minister’s power over the Police Force Commission (PFC) had its limits, and Hamzah’s alleged interference in appointments and transfers undermined attention that needed to go to other areas.

The minister has left “dozens of disciplinary cases pending” and has only conducted meetings four times since becoming home minister last March, Abdul Hamid said.

“If we cannot meet twice a month, then at least we have to meet once a month. Also, the PFC has no office.… Imagine. This is what I want to share with the public. It doesn’t even have an office. Luckily they didn’t set up an umbrella and a table,” the police chief said.

In addition, he said the minister needed to look into allegations against the police, including about police brutality, custodial deaths, corruption, and abuse of power, among other issues.

On Friday, Malaysian police said they had launched a probe into a high-profile death in custody, amid allegations that officers beat an ethnic Indian detainee, A. Ganapathy, and then failed to give him sufficient and timely treatment for the resulting wounds.

Ganapathy, 40, who died on April 18, was arrested on Feb. 25 for his alleged involvement in criminal cases.

His mother said that he had a history of heart illness and was diabetic. She alleged that her son was beaten while in custody, which led to the amputation of one of his legs and his eventual death.

According to government data, 257 people have died in police custody between 2002 and 2016.

After Hamzah said he was the person in the voice clip discussing police appointments, the youth- wing chief of opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan said the group would file a police report in Kuala Lumpur against the minister next week.  Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin said the minister had acted beyond the scope of his powers and also implicated the king in his discussion on the voice clip.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) also expressed concern over Hamzah’s conversation in the audio clip.

“The Police Force Commission chaired by Hamzah … must make public the criteria used to appoint the IGP in order for public members to evaluate the appointment,” Bersih 2.0 said in a statement.

“The process of appointing key government officials such as the Inspector General of Police is very important and must go through the Parliament so that the appointment is truly transparent, accountable, based on merit and not based on the decision of the federal minister alone.”

Earlier on Friday, Hamzah had announced the appointment of Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani as the next Inspector General of Police replacing Abdul Hamid, whose contract ends May 3. Acryl Sani was earlier the deputy police chief.

Abdul Hamid said the PFC should not have a minister as chairperson.

“It would be best, ultimately best, if PFC is not chaired by a minister. I recommend it here,” the outgoing police chief said.

 “Give it to a former chief judge, to be the chair of this commission. With ministers, they bring in their political influence into the commission.”

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