Commenting on the recent High Court decision that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) could only interrogate witnesses during office hours, the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan said, inter alia, the following:
"Time is of the essence to us and not being able to question witnesses after a crime has occurred especially after office hours will result in the criminals escaping, destroying evidence or worse still, threatening or harming the witnesses. If certain people want the crime rate to go up, then by all means go ahead but do not blame the police for wanting to do their job." [The Star]
He also said that the police are well-versed with the law on the questioning of witnesses as well as on lock-up rules.
However, the IGP has forgotten that knowing the law well doesn't really guarantee anything if his men are not going to abide by them. That the police have the habit of abusing their powers is not exactly news to us.
We have too many people beaten up while in the legal custody of the police, and some of them died because of that. We have had police bringing in teenage girls for questioning, but ended up raping them instead. We have had in the past even the IGP himself beating up a prisoner. He did it in a most cowardly fashion too by instructing his men to blindfold the prisoner first. Not to mention policemen shooting an unarmed woman twice in the head before blowing her up into pieces with explosives.
Now this may come as a surprise to Tan Sri Musa, but many of us rakyat don't really have very high regard of the police force in Malaysia. In fact, some of us are afraid for our lives when dealing with them!
The IGP's excuse is a red herring. If indeed the police is afraid of suspects escaping, they can always arrest them first and can still do the interrogations during office hours. While in custody, these suspects won't be able to harrass their victims.
At any rate, I think the main concern for limiting the interrogations to office hours is mainly for the witnesses, not the crime suspects. The MACC has repeatedly said that the victim who died was not a suspect, but a witness. I can't see the urgency of the interrogation that it had to be done up to the wee hours of the morning. That is such an inhumane way to treat a witness. If that is their idea of performing their job well, no one would ever come forward to be witnesses.
But if it is indeed true that some of these witnesses prefer to be interrogated after office hours, then yes, the police should make themselves available to do their job.
I think it is wrong to say that if the police are not allowed to carry out interrogations after office hours, crime rate will rise. We should all seriously doubt the wisdom of the person who made such a statement.
I fully support the High Court decision to limit the MACC's interrogations to office hours, and I look forward to the day when the same order is made to the police force.