What Role Has SB Have in New Malaysia?

by S. Arutchelvan

Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador is shocked that Special Branch personnel have been barred from Warisan press conferences in Sabah.”The police officers, who were there on duty, are not enemies of any party.” Malaysiakini 12 May 2019)

It is time the police realise that we want an Independent Police Department which will work without fear or favour, something which we have doubted over the years. The reason why there was a Royal Commission in 2005 and the call for IPCMC was because the rakyat had completely lost the trust of the police force. If you ask me, Anwar Ibrahim’s black eye by the IGP was the turning point where the rakyat openly called for the IGP to be sacked and the police force reformed. The pressure was so great that Mahathir himself had to call a Royal Commission on inquiry of the Black eye. The rakyat distrust of the police did not end there.

I am therefore shocked that the IGP is shocked that Special Branch(SB) personnel have been barred from Warisan press conferences in Sabah. I totally agree with Warisan Vice President Junz Wong who bared SB personnel from sitting in on their press conferences. His comment, “If they want to request for it, they should identify themselves and not pretend to be reporters”.

I share similar sentiment with him. In fact when SBs attend our functions, taking photos and recording the event, we are haunted by the old state and there is always a sense of uneasiness and hidden fear. So it is my believe that if the SB is an undercover department, then they should remain undercover. And if they want to do recording of an event called by another party, then they must be invited or they must seek permission. That is why even when we have CCTV in public, they too have to follow the law because people have right to privacy.

SB Legacy

The Malaysian SB has a legacy which we cannot ignore. Most of our IGPs do come from this department and it is suppose to be the department which uses brains over brawls. The SB has been credited for its role in fighting communism during the emergency period. The SB is also well knows of its role as strike breakers, infiltrate Unions and organisations which show dissent to the ideology of the ruling elites.

A question need to be asked – Whose interest does the SB serve?

According to the The Royal Commission to Enhance the Police Force set up in 2005 by Prime Minister, Badawi. It was said that “there appear to be no legal provisions dealing with the functions, powers and duties of the Special Branch.” The Police Act 1967 does not define what “security intelligence” means and what powers are vested in the Special Branch. It was told to them that the Special Branch appeared to be governed by a charter issued by the prime minister after independence. What was even worrying was even the Royal Commission did not have access to the so called charter.

SB – tools of the Ruling Masters

It can be safely concluded based on historical facts that the SB has been used as the tool of the ruling party to suppress dissent and opposition voices. The ISA interrogation is conducted by the SBs using various methods as soft and hard approach including torture. All these have been well recorded by the many books written by the Former ISA detainees.

Two books by two detainees in two eras points to same function of the SB. Syed Husin Ali was detained when Tun Razak was the Prime Minister in 1974 while Saari Sungip was detained when Mahathir was the PM. Both their writings will say how the SB played their role during ISA detention to please their political masters at that period of time. Their experience detail how SB try to get them take some position or confess to something.

Dr Kua Kia Soong has also extensively written about this topic. Quoting him, “The ISA has long served as the ruling coalition’s instrument of terror. Its specific purpose is to terrorise social activists, dissidents and the Opposition. It is first and foremost, a licence to torture. Renewable periods of detention under the ISA already serves as a deterrent to would-be dissidents some ISA detainees have been detained for as long as 15 and even 16 years!”

Taking PSM own experience. We only got registration after ten years and it was told to us it was because of SB reports. In court, the Government said they cannot reveal these reports against us because of the official Secret Act (OSA).

In 2011, PSM members were arrested while there was a huge momentum building on the BERSIH 2 rally. The police used trumped up allegation against PSM like we were trying to wage a war against the King and trying to revive the MCP. The SB again had all sorts of theories as they need to come up with a narrative to appease the ruling masters. During that time, we had a rubber tapper named Jody who is our member who was arrested. Jody was a community leader who fought hard against the eviction faced by her community – Ladang Stratshila in Perak. When the SB team tried to interrogate her, she refused to answer and said she will only speak in court. This is actually the training given to all our members because once you are arrested, you have a right to remain silent. That is rule of Law. But the SB had a different version. They said Jody was trained in the jungle by the MCP and that is why she is so strong mentally and physically in not answering questions. The real fact was she is a hard nut to break because she has been fighting the Developers, gangsters and FRU who were trying to evict the estate folks in her area.

Polis Dr Mahathir (PDrM)

During the Mahathir first 22 years as PM, we used to call PDRM as P DrM (Polis Dr Mahathir). When Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was the Prime Minister, Mahathir himself called Malaysia a police state. In 2006, Mahathir said this in an interview with STAR on his meeting with Badawi, “ And I pointed out to him that firstly, this has become a police state. Because every time anybody invites me to give a talk, they would be called up by the police and warned, called up by the police and told to withdraw the invitation” This is exactly the role which the SB has been playing all this while.

Now the current IGP is a Mahathir’s favourite and who would the SB would be serving now? Have their roles changed over the years. I still see SB attending functions we organise and I always wonder why the resources are being wasted here. I am sure they can play other important role like investigating forced disappearances, National security issues and terrorist cell.

The current IGP is new. I support his call to implement the IPCMC. He should understand that the Royal Commission on the police in their report has raised serious concern on the abuses by Special Branch. The Royal Commission report in 2005 reported allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the Special Branch and concerns’ that “the Special Branch may be manipulated by a party in power for political purposes.”
PSM therefore calls for the SB department to be overhauled and we support that call by the Royal Commission in 2005 that the role and powers of the Special Branch must be defined clearly in the Police Act and they truly play by the Rule of Law. The new IGP being an Ex SB person have to come out of his traditional SB role and help create a Police Force which will be respected and gain the confidence of the people.


S. Arutchelvan is a PSM Central Committee Member.

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