Former IGP backs police watchdog

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PETALING JAYA (Feb 6): Former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan has voiced support for an independent body to monitor police conduct, amid renewed calls for a police watchdog in the country.

The recent death in custody of security guard Sugumar Chelliah, 39, and alleged fatal police shooting of Pua Bee Chun, 22, have sparked calls for the government to implement the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

Musa said he had drafted proposals for a Police Integrity Commission as an alternative to the IPCMC while he was still serving in the police force.

"It's good to have an independent body overseeing the conduct of the police," said Musa during a press conference by the Malaysian Crime Watch Task Force (MyWatch) of which he is patron.

Musa said he mostly agrees with the IPCMC except in certain clauses such as the one which disallows appeal for police officers found guilty of misconduct.

The IPCMC along with other recommendations was proposed by a royal commission of inquiry into the police which released its findings in 2007.

However, in place of the IPCMC, the government had instead announced plans for an Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) to cover 18 enforcement agencies.

The EAIC has had to fend off claims of being a "toothless tiger" since it was formed on April 1, 2011.

It has a mandate to receive complaints and investigate misconduct of officers or irregularities involving enforcement agencies but it has no prosecution powers.

After its investigations, the EAIC has to refer its findings to the relevant authorities for further action such as the Attorney-General's Chambers, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission or disciplinary bodies of the relevant enforcement agencies.

Meanwhile, Musa also lent support to the police force's recommendation that an inquest be held to investigate the unresolved death of Sugumar who died on Jan 23.

The inquest was suggested despite Sugumar's family's insistence that the police carry out a murder investigation into his death.

Musa said an inquest is the most ideal avenue to gather evidence into what led to Sugumar's death.

"If they are not sure what happened to the deceased or what caused the death, then do an inquest. The magistrate (conducting the inquest) will collect evidence of any foul play or who is responsible.

"If you are not sure about the cause of death, you cannot simply pinpoint that he has been murdered," he said.

Musa was asked to comment on Sugumar's death, which has been dubbed "turmeric murder".

"If they (Sugumar's family) feel that his death has been caused by someone, then they should assist the police," he added.

Three eyewitnesses have accused a group of police officers of throwing turmeric on Sugumar's face and beating him to death while he was being handcuffed.

The police have denied these allegations and said they were called to the scene to respond to a situation where a man was running amok and destroying public property in Hulu Langat near Sugumar's home.

The attorney-general has since given the green light for an inquest to be conducted into Sugumar's death.

Police say further investigation into the death will be carried out if the inquest finds evidence of foul play.

However, Sugumar's family maintains that the evidence of the three eyewitnesses was sufficient to prompt a murder investigation by the police.

An initial post-mortem from Serdang Hospital showed Sugumar had died of a heart attack but his family is now pressing for a second autopsy to be conducted by reknown Thai pathologist Dr Porntip Rojanasunand.

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