More Police Killings of Innocent People

Did we kill Aminulrasyid?
April 30, 2010

APRIL 30 — Some friends of mine were once robbed at the cybercafe
which we frequent (yes, still addicted to Dota). The men came in with
parangs, threatened everyone, collected the goods and tried to make
their escape.

One man wasn’t able to start his getaway motorcycle quickly enough,
and this cost him dearly. Most of the cybercafe came out, descended on
him and, well, beat the crap out of him.

This, I understand, is not an entirely uncommon fate for robbers and
thieves who are caught by a mob.

Apparently, it is not an uncommon fate for those caught by the police

When I first blogged about the death of Kugan, more than a few
commentators wrote and said things like: “He deserved it”, “Why should
you care about a car thief?” and so on. Oddly, this debate still takes
place on said blog post, well over a year after it was written.

Some of my loved ones have also expressed certain sentiments about how
justice for these petty criminals cannot be served within our sluggish
judicial system, and that sometimes what they really need is a good
box around the ears that no one else really needs to know about. Maybe
nothing too severe you know? Just rough him up a little?

Well, I posit that we have seen this last week just how and where this
line of thinking ends.

With the possible exception of Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jalil, who
seems to think once again that this is all the parents fault, everyone
is disgusted at the shooting of Aminulrasyid Amzah.

John Lee and I have literally put together a whole book on the subject
of police brutality, and I think for me to continue such a critique
here would be to flog a near dead horse.

I hope today to discuss public attitudes instead.

Everyone hates crime. I hate crime. An attack by snatch thieves left
my mom immobile for days, and traumatised for much longer.

A lot of us want revenge. Inspired perhaps by movies like “Taken”,
where Liam Neeson “heroically” puts a bullet in the head of dozens of
men who stand between him and his daughter, we want to see an eye for
an eye type of justice.

It’s an understandable sentiment, it really is; but we have to go
beyond it.

The simple truth is the minute we start sliding down that slippery
slope of “it's OK to rough up the ‘real’ bad guys just a little bit”,
it won’t be long until we create the type of police force that shoots
and kills unarmed 14-year-olds.

Can we say the signs weren’t there?

I have this feeling the Hindraf gang will ask why no one kicked up a
fuss with the near hundreds of cases of Indians being victims of
extrajudicial killings — most of them shot in the same way
Aminulrasyid was?

No one likes racial thinking either, but the facts in such a
contention remain. No one can deny that our police force has a
reputation (among those who care and pay attention at least) for being
a little trigger happy.

As recently as in Hulu Selangor, a victim of police shooting — whose
experience is remarkably similar to Aminulrasyid’s and the other
person in the car with him — was trying to seek justice from BN
politicians too busy peddling promises and bribes.

Norizan Salleh — a slightly built single mother — said that in October
last year in Segambut, similar to Aminulrasyid and his companion, the
car she was in was shot at and pushed off the road. She was then
dragged out of the car, kicked and beaten, after already being hit
five times by gunfire. Unlike Aminulrasyid, she managed to escape with
her life.

Perhaps if we Malaysians made enough noise about Norizan’s case, it
may have given the cops who shot Aminulrasyid a little pause for
thought before they did a near re-enactment of Norizan’s scene in Shah
Alam, fired at will and took away that young boy's life.

I wish I could say for sure that had I been there that day, I might
have tried to stop those cybercafe patrons from beating that robber;
but I don't know if I would have had the guts.

If I had — if we had — that kind of guts, maybe we can save the lives
of the next few Aminulrasyids, Kugans and Teoh Beng Hocks.
Lagi kematian disebabkan ditembak polis
Suaram mengutuk keras tindakan Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) yang giat menembak mati tidak kira warga Malaysia ataupun warga asing dengan lebih kerap. Terkini mangsa yang ditembak mati oleh polis termasuk R Logeswaran, 38, dan Satchithananthan, 25, pada 8 April; dan dua insiden yang melibatkan enam orang warga Indonesia di dalam dua kes yang berasingan – di Kuala Selangor pada 16 Mac 2010 dan di Temerloh, Pahang pada 5 April 2010.1

Suaram ingin mendapatkan maklum balas daripada PDRM tentang penggunaan senjata api dalam semua kejadian yang berlaku sebelum ini dan juga dalam kes-kes yang disebutkan di atas. Suaram menghormati hak pihak polis untuk melindungi diri dalam operasi-operasi yang dijalankan, namun hak dan nyawa suspek juga perlu diutamakan.

Suaram berpandangan kejadian kes-kes polis menembak mati suspek berlaku secara luas adalah kerana tiadanya mekanisme yang telus dan jelas tentang penggunaan senjata api oleh Polis. Malah apa yang lebih mengecewakan adalah dokumen panduan dalam menggunakan senjata api di Malaysia tidak dapat dirujuk oleh orang awam.2 Ini dengan jelas membuktikan bahawa penggunaan senjata api oleh polis tidak diimbangi oleh pemeriksaan awam dan sekaligus menyebabkan tahap akauntabiliti yang amat rendah di dalam institusi polis.

Tambahan pula, oleh kerana ketiadaan prosedur yang kukuh untuk memastikan setiap kes tembakan polis seperti ini dilaporkan dan disiasat secara bebas dan menyeluruh, timbul keraguan sama ada pihak polis sememangnya menggunakan senjata api untuk mempertahankan diri ataupun sengaja menggunakan terhadap suspek untuk memudahkan penyelesaian kes mereka.

Penyalahgunaan kuasa di kalangan PDRM dan penindasan terhadap hak asasi manusia adalah masalah serius yang jelas wujud dalam PDRM, seperti yang dinyatakan dalam Laporan Suruhanjaya Diraja Penambahbaikan Perjalanan dan Pengurusan Polis Diraja Malaysia.3

Memandangkan Kerajaan Malaysia berminat untuk bertanding untuk menjadi ahli Majlis Hak Asasi Manusia, Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu (PBB) bagi 2010-2013, adalah wajib bagi kerajaan untuk mengambil langkah untuk memastikan masalah-masalah mengenai hak asasi manusia ditangani berdasarkan prinsip-prinsip dan undang-undang antarabangsa. Sebagai anggota PBB apalagi Negara yang berhasrat mengaggotai Majlis Hak Asasi Manusia, Kerajaan Malaysia harus mematuhi prinsip-prinsip antarabangsa mengenai penggunaan senjata api yang tertera di dalam dokumen PBB, “Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials”, bahawa “penggunaan senjata api hanya boleh digunakan dalam keadaan yang terdesak di samping untuk melindungi nyawa” dan “pihak berkuasa perlu memberi amaran yang jelas dengan masa yang mencukupi sebelum mereka menggunakan senjata api”.

Suaram menuntut agar pihak Kerajaan melaksanakan cadangan-cadangan yang dikemukakan oleh Suruhanjaya Diraja Penambahbaikan Perjalanan dan Pengurusan Polis Diraja Malaysia terutama menubuhkan Suruhanjaya Bebas Pengaduan dan Salah Laku Polis (IPCMC) secepat mungkin sekiranya kerajaan ingin merealisasikan slogan ‘’Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan.’’
The arrogance of police power

A week after schoolboy Aminulrasyid Amzah's death by police shooting, Malaysians have been treated to the ghastly spectacle of a government withdrawing into itself in the face of public outrage, and seemingly intent only on finding grounds for justifying its actions.

Left in abeyance is the fact that governments exist in democratic nations to ensure the safety of all its citizens, and to ensure equal justice for all, no matter what their station in life.

Aminul is dead, at the age of 15, after a late-night caper. Under normal circumstances, he would have faced punishment from his parents. Instead he was, in effect, served the death penalty in appallingly suspicious circumstances.

The Malaysian public is justifiably angry and upset. Justice must be served in dealing with how Aminul died — not just for his sake, but also for the sake of all citizens who need reassurance, in no uncertain terms, that they are safe from their own guardians.

It is at times like these that a democratically-elected government rises to the occasion and acts in the larger interests of everyone.

Instead, for the past week, the image that emerged is of an uncaring police force intent on protecting its reputation and its manliless, aggresively demanding that its word is accepted at face value without question.

If that is not the image they sought to build, the Inspector-General of Police and the Selangor police chief only have themselves to blame.

Musa Hassan made a childish threat to keep the police force in barracks, aggresively showed he expected unquestioning acceptance of the policemen's own accounts, then tried to pin on a dead boy and his family any responsibility for the circumstances that led to his death, in between keeping up a plaintive pleading for the public to be fair to his men.

It is no wonder that many demanded that he leave immediately and not wait for his contract to expire.

Khalid Abu Bakar also insisted that the public should believe his policemen's story and showed a callous willingness to label a schoolboy a criminal on the unproven assertion that a parang was found in his car, and arrogantly threatened politicians who took up the issue and questioned police accounts.

It is no wonder that questions are asked whether he considers himself a policeman, an officer of the law, or is really a politician.

Politicians in the administration did not help matters much, either.

Hishammuddin Tun Hussein did himself no favours by acting tough, and demanding as the IGP did that the public must be fair to the police. His deputy, Abu Seman Yusop, leading a home ministry inquiry panel, has tried to pass it off as a "powerful" panel. But the panel is essentially conducting an internal inquiry, with no powers under law to investigate, hold public hearings or compel witnesses to testify. There is little public about what it does, save the public statements he makes and the way they are seen in public.

Even a loudly-proclaimed promise to make its findings public has now become conditional on the agreement of the home minister.

As for the prime minister, it was a week before he came out for a free, open and transparent inquiry and to warn against any cover-up. And that was while he was campaigning in Sibu. Why did it take him so long, after the IGP and the home minister had been cavorting with the facts in the face of increasing public anger?

Is anyone really in charge? Does anything matter except to win elections?

The home ministry panel has now begun its work with the late inclusion of Tun Hanif Omar, the former Inspector-General and probably the last to command any measure of wide public respect. The home ministry clearly hopes that public respect for Hanif will spill over into respect for the panel and its findings. That is very much doubtful, given that an internal investigation falls far short of a proper public inquiry that the people and the circumstances demand.

What is at stake is not merely a matter of sorting out standard operating procedures, or of training of policemen, or of adherence to standards, or of how teenagers should be brought up.

Aminul's death by shooting is only one incident in a whole string of events that leave the reputation and authority of the entire police force and its leadership under question.

What is really under scrutiny, what really needs to be questioned, is the basis of how the whole police force is managed, how it operates, how it is led, what it regards as its priorities, and how it regards its role in Malaysian society.

Musa Hassan and Khalid Abu Bakar's public statements, and their attitudes to the public and to politicians, leave little doubt that a strong streak of arrogance permeates the police force.

That arrogance led to the scuttling of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, sabotaged by police intransigence and fear of being exposed.

Twenty years ago, the IGP then, Rahim Noor, ruined a professional career by beating up deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in the dungeons of Bukit Aman; the prime minister at the time, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, staunchly defending his man, even suggested that the resulting black eye could have been self-inflicted by Anwar. Had it not been for unrelenting public pressure and public scorn of Mahathir's arrogant and facile explanations, that IGP might have almost got away with it.

For the sake of Malaysian society and the future of all our children, this IGP and his cohort must be called to account. They must not be allowed to get away.

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