IPCMC Bill: A Promising Sign of Meaningful Change

Good morning. A quick note on the IPCMC bill that was debated yesterday. It is a story of a procedural folly that inadvertently became a historic positive moment in Malaysian Parliamentary history.

The proposal for an independent commision to handle complaints against the police started a long time ago, as far back as 2005. Back then, a royal commission report made the recommendation to pass a new law. Fast forward 13 years later, when PH took over government in May 2018, the idea of tabling an IPCMC bill was revived yet again, this time presumably with full political will from the PH government.

The IPCMC was one of a cluster of secondary reforms in the PH manifesto. The primary systemic and structural reforms in the manifesto have yet to even start.

Nevertheless, there was hope that PH will get this bill passed. However when it was tabled for 2nd reading yesterday, the bill was clearly inadequate. Some PH backbenchers whose interests are on the criminal justice system, in particular YB Ram Karpal looked at the bill on Saturday and informed the minister that many backbenchers will not support it. What followed was a series of behind the scene moves to salvage the bill, and ended with a face saving move to refer the bill to the Select Committee for the Consideration of Bills, which was created in December 2018.

Parliamentary history was inadvertently made yesterday. For the first time ever, the law making process would now involve a select committee’s consideration.

Next step, is to quickly solidify this process by forming a lot more ministerial select committees and revamping sections of the Standing Order. Yesterday was truly groundbreaking. It also serves as a lesson to ministers that they have to engage select committees before tabling a bill.

Going through the select committees is the norm around the world! Thanks to the previous BN administrations, only in Malaysia, ministers can bypass committees in the law making process. With the ruling yesterday, I hope the PH ministers will finally wake up and see the need to change this process. Then we can finally see the start of meaningful structural reforms in Parliament.

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