"If Abdul Hamid’s contract is not renewed, it could lead to speculation that the cartel of young officers have had their way in getting him removed. If his term is renewed, some will be keeping tabs to see if there is a purge in the force, and if it is fair.”
The statement by Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador of some bad apples within the force wanting to wrest control of the police for their personal gains warrants closer scrutiny.
Although Abdul Hamid stated that he has the situation under control and does not need any external intervention, nobody is really convinced.
Policing the police is almost impossible, not only in Malaysia, but in almost every country. From the US to Hong Kong, the police force is a community of its own with its own principles.
Within the force, there is a code of silence where the officers do not report wrongdoings by their colleagues for abuses such as police brutality, corruption and protection of criminal rackets in return for monetary gratification. It is described as the “blue code of conduct”.
Like other forces, the police force is very much entrenched in a hierarchical system where junior officers concede to the demands of their superiors without much questions being asked. Hence, if the policing is done internally, it is never going to be effective.
Even politicians are fearful of exerting too much control over the force and generally do not react to calls for reforms from civic society groups. They fear that any move they make against the force would be construed as being soft and pandering to the demands of groups that are anti-police.
In the past, there had been attempts to get an independent body to look into complaints against the force. For this to happen, a law has to be passed in parliament. Towards this end, the government had tried to get the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) bill through parliament. But so far, it has not become a reality.
The bill was mooted in 2005 following the recommendation by a Royal Commission of Inquiry looking into complaints of abuse, including deaths in police custody and systematic abduction of people.
The IPCMC is supposed to be independent of the police force, to the extent that even former officers are not allowed to be appointed to it. In conducting its investigations, the IPCMC would effectively counter the “blue code of silence”. This is because the proposed law allows the commission to compel any person, including police officers, to provide information or documents to facilitate investigations, failing which they could be fined, end up with a custodial sentence, or both.
The closest the IPCMC has come to being passed into law was when a watered-down version — the Independent Police Conduct Commission Bill (IPCC) — was tabled in parliament in 2019 under the rule of Pakatan Harapan. After the first reading, it was referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee for further fine-tuning, which was a first in parliament.
In August last year, de facto Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan announced that the bill would be withdrawn and replaced with another bill.
Following Abdul Hamid’s revelation of a cartel of junior officers who want to take control of the force for their own agenda, influential Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin called on the IGP to report the matter to the Police Force Commission.
Hamzah chairs the commission, which is currently the highest body overseeing the force. But Abdul Hamid said he had the matter under control and instead apologised to the minister for not informing him of the matter before making it public.
Abdul Hamid, who retired from the force in 2016, is well known for being outspoken and no stranger to facing opposition within the force and the government.
In August 2015, when he was deputy director of the Special Branch, he was transferred out to the Prime Minister’s Office. The official reason given by the then IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar was that the move was to give him due recognition.
But Abdul Hamid countered Khalid by stating that his transfer was due to his investigation into 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
His transfer came about at the same time as the removal of former attorney-general Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and the departure of two key officials in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed and Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull.
After the new government came into power, Abu Kassim, Shukri and Abdul Hamid all came back to serve the government. Abdul Hamid returned in May 2018 as director of the Special Branch and took over as IGP the following year after the retirement of Tan Sri Fuzi Harun.
Prior to Abdul Hamid’s elevation to IGP, there was speculation that he might not get the job as the country’s top cop as there was a lack of consensus within the force and the government on his appointment. However, the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and current Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was the home affairs minister then, confirmed Abdul Hamid’s appointment.
Abdul Hamid’s two-year term as IGP is due to end in May this year.
Can he really break up the cartel of young officers who supposedly want to control the force for their own gains? Can he reform the police and remove the “blue code of conduct”?
These questions will continue to be the subject of speculation.
If Abdul Hamid’s contract is not renewed, it could lead to speculation that the cartel of young officers have had their way in getting him removed. If his term is renewed, some will be keeping tabs to see if there is a purge in the force, and if it is fair.
Alternatively, if an external body independent of the police is allowed to investigate the IGP’s claims, it would clear the force of the allegations surrounding it. The MACC would be the appropriate entity to do so.
The policing of the police just cannot be done by the force itself. There is just too much mistrust.
M Shanmugam is contributing editor at The Edge