The Malaysian Bar refers to the astonishing article published in the New Straits Times (“NST”) of 3 June 2015 that discloses that “a staggering 80 percent of the nation’s security personnel and law officers at Malaysian borders are corrupt”
NST claims that evidence of this pervasive and systemic corruption is found in a “controversial report compiled by the Special Branch”, which is “the result of 10 years of covert, deep-cover surveillance and intelligence gathering by the Special Branch at the nation’s border checkpoints, and at different enforcement agencies throughout the country”. NST also stated that the personnel of the enforcement agencies “were not only on the take, but many were on the payroll of syndicates dealing with drugs, weapons and even human smuggling”.
The Special Branch is a unit of the Royal Malaysia Police and is responsible for collecting and assessing security intelligence. It is thus noteworthy that NST states that the Special Branch had “over the years, shared crucial information with [the enforcement] agencies. However, on many occasions, they were not followed through, for reasons known only to these agencies that were fed intel.”
The Malaysian Bar notes that, in an apparent response to the NST revelations, the Minister of Home Affairs, Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, reportedly said, “The issue of institutionalized corruption, where these law enforcement officers know the syndicate members well, must be arrested once and for all”.
The Malaysian Bar is extremely concerned by this alarming exposé of blatant corruption and other serious crimes that implicate our enforcement agencies. The Government’s response has been rather muted and lukewarm, although it has been five days since the NST report. It is not every day that Malaysians are told by the NST that the Special Branch has discovered such widespread corruption in our enforcement agencies. Yet, apart from reports of the arrest of two police officers in connection with the discovery of mass graves, the proposed implementation of a rotation system of personnel, and the proposed involvement of the Armed Forces in securing the borders, little else has been heard in terms of concrete measures. There have also been some offensive statements that do not deserve to be dignified with a comment.
The lack of prompt, tangible and decisive action by the authorities is all the more reprehensible given the recent discovery of a reported 139 grave sites found at up to 28 “death camps” in the state of Perlis, and the report that the skeletal remains of 99 victims of human trafficking have been found. It is unprecedented in Malaysia’s history to find mass graves and “death camps”. The report by NST points to unchecked and rampant corruption and crime within our enforcement agencies, which may well have been one of the proximate reasons for this unspeakable tragedy.
The NST report raises many vexing questions that must be answered, including:
(1) When the Special Branch first discovered the commission of the crimes, and the extent of its knowledge;
(2) The actions taken by the Special Branch, including whom it informed, and the response received in each instance; and
(3) The types and quanta of benefits obtained through the commission of the crimes.
The answers to these — and many other — critical questions will assist in ascertaining the perpetrators of, as well as those complicit in, the commission of these crimes, and they must be brought to justice without delay. There must be no cover-up for, or protection of, any wrongdoers.
The Malaysian Bar rejects the lame excuse given by the Special Branch, that the repeal of the Internal Security Act 1960, and the purportedly ineffective Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (“SOSMA”), impeded its ability to deal with corruption amongst law enforcement officers. There are sufficient provisions in law to enable the Special Branch to discharge its functions. Moreover, the Special Branch’s responsibility is to investigate and gather evidence of the commission of a crime, not to decide whether a prosecution is warranted, or likely to succeed.
Corruption remains a dire problem in Malaysia. The Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) notes that corruption remains a key barrier to business. It is widely felt that the levels of integrity and transparency in public institutions have not improved, and a sense of deep mistrust towards the police and enforcement agencies persists.
The Malaysian Bar reiterates our call for the Malaysian Government to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry (“RCI”) to investigate the existence of the “death camps”, and their perpetrators. This catastrophe is clearly the consequence of poor enforcement, and the RCI must promptly determine whether there is a vicious circle of complicity, collusion and corruption within our enforcement agencies that has caused it.
The Malaysian Bar also reiterates our call for the Malaysian Government to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (“IPCMC”), an independent, external oversight body tasked solely to receive and investigate complaints against the police. We recognise that there are many good police personnel, and it is imperative that their good name not be sullied by the misconduct of their colleagues.
The NST report is a crushing indictment of our enforcement agencies, and will cause incalculable loss of public confidence and trust in them. The horror of the “death camps” is a belated wake-up call to the Government to urgently address the scourge of corruption and to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards corrupt practices that have been condoned, and have become rampant. The sanctity of life must not be jeopardized as a result of corruption.
8 June 2015