Joint Press Statement: 20th August 2009
"Reverse Decision to Include RELA in Public Policing"
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and Amnesty International (Malaysia) hereby express our grave concerns over the announcement by Kuala Lumpur city CID chief Senior Asst Comm II Datuk Ku Chin Wah that the Civil Defence Department (JPAM) and RELA members will start their duties as volunteer policemen on 18 August 2009.
This announcement was made as part of the government’s efforts in reducing street crimes – one of the National Key Results Areas (KRAs) announced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak last month.
We fear that the proposal will legitimize and strengthen the functioning powers of arrest, search and detention of RELA, whose inadequately-trained part-time volunteers have been known to act arbitrarily and in an overzealous manner. This will indeed worsen the current climate of arbitrary law enforcement in Malaysia and will increase the abuses of power and human rights violations.
Currently, under the law, RELA has very wide and discretionary powers. These include powers to stop any persons should they have reasonable belief that the person is a terrorist, undesirable person, illegal immigrant or an occupier in order to make inquiries and to arrest these persons without warrant. They have also been given powers to enter and search any premises without a warrant and to carry firearms. Recent incidents have shown that RELA officers have arrested and detained persons on their personal capacity without a competent oversight mechanism.
We strongly object to RELA’s enforcement powers as well as the Prime Minister’s proposal to use RELA in fighting crime. We believe that law enforcement work that involves powers to arrest, search and detain must only be given to competent and specially-trained full-time authorities, with clear provisions outlining its powers and limits to ensure accountability. RELA, whose members are inadequately-trained and serve only as part-time volunteers, cannot be given such powers.
On another issue, we would like to record our concern on the overall National Key Results Area (KRA) which fails to include human rights requirements as part of its Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for crucial governmental agencies.
With specific reference to the Royal Malaysian Police, the KRA sets forth key elements such as a culture of excellence in work performance and responsibilities, and exploration of new opportunities as its benchmark. While recognising the importance of the crime reduction, we are disappointed that indicators of human rights compliance have not been included in the KPIs set for the police force. We emphasise that human rights norms and obligations are fundamental for the indication of true work professionalism and responsibilities of the police.
These important requirements were included in the 2005 report of The Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police. In its 576-page report, the Commission made 125 recommendations, focusing on three main areas of reform - crime reduction; eradicating corruption; and observing human rights in policing the country.
We believe that a human rights approach to policing should be a primary goal of the National KRA and KPI. Hence, human rights should be at the core of police philosophy and practice. We believe that this approach would present the best means to ensure human dignity and the rights of every person in Malaysia while providing them with effective protection from crime. Indeed, effective policing in a democracy depends on its respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law.
The recently announced KPI also fails to take note of the objective of the recently passed Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) Bill. The EAIC was set up with the intention to make law enforcement agencies accountable to the public and to ensure strong professional behaviour. Hence, the government’s failure in making human rights compliance as a core of the performance and functioning of law enforcement agencies would defeat the purpose of the establishment of the EAIC as a regulatory mechanism to ensure that law enforcement agencies are professional, accountable, and people-friendly.
We therefore call on the Prime Minister to include human rights compliance as a priority KPI for the Royal Malaysian Police and extend the requirement and obligation to all law enforcement agencies in Malaysia.
We also call on the Prime Minister to reverse the proposal of including RELA in public policing, initiatives, revoke the 2005 Essential (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat) (Amendment) Regulation, and return RELA to its core function of rescue and relief initiatives.
Amnesty International Malaysia
Yap Heng Lung
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)