Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) is disappointed with the Royal Malaysian Police’s (PDRM) decision to handcuff, arrest, apprehend overnight, and charge an individual under section 186 of Penal Code for recording members of PDRM carrying out a search at a private residence without a warrant. As reported, Wong Yan Ke, the former president of the University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany), had attempted to record the actions of plain clothed police officers who were attempting to search the home of Umany’s current president Yap Wen Qing, without a warrant.
The above mentioned section of the Act states that it is an offence to obstruct any public servant in discharging his duties, and if convicted carries a penalty which may extend to two years or a fine of up to RM10,000, or both. To any reasonable person recording the actions of the police officers does not tantamount to ‘obstructing public officers from carrying out their duties’.
It is the right of every citizen to ask police officers to identify themselves and to see their authority cards; it is also the right of a citizen to know why they are being searched, questioned or detained. The PDRM has sufficiently broad and unrestricted powers to carry out their duties and disclosing relevant information on how their powers are being used (especially for crimes that are not violent in nature) in a transparent manner does not hinder their work. This is the practice in many countries around the world with a professional police force – if their powers are being used appropriately, there is nothing to hide.
The irony is, the PDRM have voluntarily taken it upon themselves to add body cams to their uniform to avoid “allegations from irresponsible parties” as early as 2015. TI-M welcomes this form of accountability and supports the current IGP, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador’s call in 2019, followed by the Bukit Aman Logistics and Technology Department director, Datuk Seri Rosli Ab Rahman claims that, “1,300 body cameras would be supplied to PDRM as they have been found to be able to assist in handling criminal matters in a transparent manner as well as to prevent wrongful accusations among police officers and personnel.”
The famous tagline of the police “Polis dan Masyarakat berpisah tiada” (the police and the community never part) is one many Malaysians have grown disillusioned with – seeing in all the past years cases of police opacity, custodial deaths, as well as allegations of corruption. This divide between the police and society and the current trust deficit will only widen and increase if the PDRM continues to refuse to communicate transparently with the rakyat, and instead chooses to penalise everyone who asks questions or lifts a camera.