Custodial death, covid-19 surge – PN must give account

The Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador has been demanded to explain the death of A Ganapathy following time under police custody. Ganapathy’s legs were amputated and he later died in hospital after being detained by the police for a period of time.

While a number of politicians and NGOs have demanded an explanation for Ganapathy’s death apparently after time under police custody, the retiring IGP will be replaced by Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani effective from next Tuesday. This is the current deputy IGP who was reported as saying that a rape threat against a teenager was possibly a joke by her classmates.

We will have to wait and see how Acryl Sani will handle the sensitive issue of custodial deaths. However, I believe it’s not the current IGP nor the incoming one who needs to explain Ganapathy’s death and take responsibility for it. It should be the Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin who needs to show his accountability to the people.

Afterall it was he, as chairman of the Police Force Commission, who blocked Hamid’s action to move police officers in a bid to check corruption in the police force. Hamzah defended himself by saying that as chairman he went along with the majority decision by the Police Force Commission.

That’s an excuse rather than a reason to absolve responsibility for his action. Whether he or the Police Force Commission made the decision it undermined Hamid’s authority as the IGP. Hamid had acted totally within his authority to move his men. It’s a strategy taken to ensure discipline but Hamzah and the Police Force Commission undermined it. It would have come across to the police force that the IGP can be ignored since the Police Force Commission has authority over him. Shouldn’t the Police Force Commission be reinforcing the authority of the IGP rather than undermining it?

I wonder if Hamzah understands the implications of his action. If Hamid had had his way, his men might have been restrained from crossing the lines of corruption and abuse of position. But, Hamzah and the Police Force Commission blocked Hamid and they have to assume responsibility for the current actions of the police force.

Nevertheless, don’t expect Hamzah to act positively to resolve the issue of custodial deaths. Characteristic of this so-called “caring” Prihation Nasional (PN) coalition, which dismisses public criticisms on the grounds that its decisions were made by ministers and commissions appointed by the king, they are not accountable to the people.

Hamzah claims he had the right to overrule the IGP by virtue of his position as chairman of the commission. It’s the same claim he made regarding a video where he is said to be discussing the selection of the IGP. In response to a question regarding the video, he said he didn’t know what was his offence.

Seriously? He doesn’t realise he has to follow the normal processes of appointments and not influence the process in favour of his choices? He doesn’t see that as an abuse of position? He doesn’t understand that the IGP has the right to choose his team so that he has a firm control of the police force and that the minister should solidly back him and not undermine him? If Hamzah wants to choose police officers of his choice, why have an IGP? Let him serve as one.

There might be a silver lining in all of these questionable decisions and appointments. They were made under emergency, which means once emergency is lifted all these decisions and appointments can be reversed or challenged in court since the emergency was declared solely for the purpose of managing the covid-19 pandemic.

Yet, even in the only one thing the PN coalition was entrusted to do, it failed. Covid-19 cases are rising sharply and have crossed the 3,000 figure for daily cases and the number of deaths have gone into the double-digit figure of 15 (April 29 figure) with the total number of cases crossing the 400,000 mark.

But, does this “caring” coalition care? How can we conclude that the PN cares when its Health Minister Dr Adham Baba claims that the steep rise in covid-19 cases is due to trends and not management of the pandemic? According to him the sudden surge of cases is due to the current increasing trend of the spread of the virus and similar to the trends in India, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

He compared Malaysia with nations that failed to manage the pandemic from its start? Thailand is the exception with a low number of cases in the early stage of the pandemic but, led by a military government totally insensitive to its people, its covid cases have recently seen a jump in numbers. Adham compares Malaysia with these poorly-managed nations but not with the better managed nations like New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and even Brunei?

Apparently that’s the standard to which we have dropped under the “care” of the PN. Even with a world-class health director-general (DG) like Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and the wealth of skilled and expert health professionals at its disposal, the PN was unable to contain the surging rise in cases.

PN must be held accountable for these failures or just resign.

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