Hafiz Yatim Published Updated
The police force should be the face of human rights and not the face of intimidation, Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairperson Razali Ismail said today.
Addressing the International Malaysian Law Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Razali said one of Suhakam's initiatives was to provide training for law enforcement agencies such as the police, Prisons Department, Immigration Department, Agency for Volunteer Forces (Rela), Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and local authorities.
"I must confess, here, that this is a mammoth task and Suhakam really has to dig deeper into its raison d'etre and its resources to ensure that all the training and teaching given will have a positive impact on them. These programmes and training do not cover all personnel," he added.
Razali, who is a former Malaysian ambassador to the United Nations, admitted that it was just scratching the surface.
He said it is vital that the police and other uniformed bodies, from the lowest to the highest ranks, should be equipped with the knowledge and understanding about the value of human rights as the country strengthens security and, at the same time, deals with terrorism.
"Regulations are being promulgated in a sweeping fashion that will have the effect of threatening democratic practice and undermine the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"In essence, the police should be the face of human rights, and not a face to intimidate, even as the police need to be the bulwark of the country’s security," Razali added.
The Suhakam chairperson was speaking generally and not referring to any case in particular.
However, recently it was reported that the wife of of former journalist Sidek Kamiso complained that police had arrested her husband without any warrant of arrest.
Exercise powers reasonably
The Suhakam chairperson also reminded ministers and public officers to exercise the powers conferred on them fairly and in good faith, as the rule of law is salutary.
“Such powers should not be exercised unreasonably or in excess of their limits. This rule has huge implications. It has to do with the limits of power, the legitimacy of power and the abuse of power, that would eventually open the door to monetary or power corruption.
“All agencies and authorities have to ensure that actions taken should be in line with the simple principle of proportionality.
“We have to ensure that actions taken would protect the public without undermining the institutions they rely on,” he said.
Razali added the rule of law required an independent judiciary as it was in the best position to provide proper checks and balances on the government, in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
He said that prior to to 1988, the Malaysian judiciary was considered as one of the most independent internationally.
Razali said the Malaysian judiciary went through a turbulent time during the 1988 crisis, which resulted in the sacking of the then lord president of the Supreme Court, and five other judges.
“This is a black mark on the history of our judiciary and no attempt should ever be made again to emasculate its independence.
“It is crucial that the government implement adequate measures to maintain the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and to ensure the moral integrity and accountability of its members, in the exercise of its legislative and executive powers,” he emphasised.