On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Let’s fix the problem, not fix somebody

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has correctly called for an independent commission of inquiry to find out exactly what has happened to show we do not cover up any allegations of abuse of power by the police.

By coming out clean, Malaysians would now be satisfied with the answers given from the open investigations.

The commission must also be commended for deciding to recall the woman to testify following complaints from the press and lawyer SN Nair over how the woman was identified on Tuesday, when she was seen only by commission members.

The move by the commission to protect her was understandable but it led to scepticism from the public and media. The feedback must have surely reached the commission.

The police had dropped hints earlier that the woman was not a China national but could be a Malaysian. It was reported in some newspapers but many members of the public did not want to believe it, more so when the reports were attributed to sources.

Meanwhile, there have also been disturbing remarks by certain politicians against opposition Members of Parliament who brought up the matter in Parliament. These individuals have subtly suggested that the opposition only raised the issue because it involved a possible China citizen. Some have cloaked their statements with side issues like race relations, national interest and a desire to protect the police force.

No one can deny the good job of the police force in making Malaysia safe, but the fact remains that there are policemen who are corrupt and who abuse their powers. You know, I know and the politicians know.

There is no reason to tie up this issue with the overall position of the force. If that is the case, then no one should complain about the police again because to do so would tarnish the police image and demoralise them.

Such baying of blood against politicians or the media runs against calls by the Prime Minister for transparency and greater accountability.

The press and the MPs did the right thing in exposing the  video clip issue.

In fact, MCA Public Complaints and Services Department chief Datuk Michael Chong took the trouble to bring the clip to the attention of the police first, asking them to act fast before it became an issue.

The urgency was obvious – there had been earlier allegations of harassment involving Chinese women by the police. Even the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had said so.

To be on the side of caution on matters involving China is wise because the emerging economic giant is a friendly partner of Malaysia and the economic side-effects from any fallout cannot be dismissed lightly. Let's get real.

But it remains a mystery why no one had taken the trouble to come out on record that initial investigations had shown that it was a Malaysian woman.

Why let the matter drag on for weeks in the glare of bad publicity in East Asia and having our Malaysian envoy summoned by Beijing when there was already information in hand that it did not involve a Chinese national?

There would have been no need for the Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid to be placed in a tight spot.

We have now been told that ear squats are an acceptable police procedure to ensure that suspects do not conceal prohibited items or weapons. Condoms filled with drugs have been found hidden in the rectum, the hearing was told.

The police, we must understand, have their duties to perform and we certainly want them to do so effectively.

It is also a standard practice to ask suspects to remove their clothes for body checks, let's all be clear about that.

At the same time, we have also learnt that holding the ears while doing squats does not have any bearing on expelling foreign objects hidden in the rectum. Holding the ears merely stabilises the person while doing the squats, according to the testimony of a witness.

There is a difference between performing the squats to check for hidden objects and doing the ear squats to humiliate the person. It's very much like when our teachers asked us to do ear squats when we were in schools – to punish and shame us.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil correctly stated that the fundamental issue from the public inquiry is that the dignity and integrity of detainees must be protected. Appropriate consideration on the procedures, she added, must be emphasised, regardless of race, religion and citizenship.

Malaysians appreciate sensible statements and it would be good if other politicians could emulate her instead of making brash and irrational remarks which reflect badly on them.

The commissioners led by Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah have certainly carried out their responsibilities professionally and have proven that no one, even the police, is above the law.

But let's not forget this – the woman in the video clip was the victim, the press was the messenger, while some MPs became whistle-blowers by bringing the attention to Parliament.

The ones to be punished are the culprits who humiliated her and filmed her on video, let there be no confusion. Let's fix the problem, not fix somebody.