I spent approximately 45 minutes on Polling Day sitting in a pondok polis in Bukit Damansara. My mother had been involved in a small traffic accident earlier that morning, and so after we had cast our votes at S.K. Bukit Damansara we went to report the incident.
It surprised us to realise that Bukit Damansara does not have a full-fledged police station. There is a pondok polis at Pusat Bandar Damansara, but it was closed. The other place I thought to look was around Plaza Damansara. We found one there.
I explained to the sole constable in attendance (the rest of the team was on election duty) that my mother had banged into a motor-cyclist who had run the red light in a traffic junction in Section 16/Jalan Universiti. The constable immediately informed me that as this was a traffic incident, we had to make the report at the Jalan Bandar Police Station. I said no. I paused to explain to him that his boss, the Inspector-General of Police, had informed me that a traffic accident report could be made at any police station. Being relatively junior, he made a telephone call to a superior officer. The telephone was passed to me and it was explained to me that if it was a criminal matter I could make the report anywhere, but since it was a traffic accident I had to report it at Jalan Bandar Police Station. Then it occurred to the speaker that since the accident happened in Petaling Jaya we had to go to the Petaling Jaya Police Station instead.
I paused again to explain that I was a lawyer and that in October last year the Malaysian Bar had organised the Malaysian Law Conference. One of the speakers was none other than the Inspector-General of Police. During the question and answer session I had raised the point that despite reading in the press that traffic accident reports could now be made at any police station a friend of mine had been told that she had to report an accident she was involved in which had occurred in Petaling Jaya in Petaling Jaya even though she lived not far away from a police station in Ampang. In front of the over one thousand lawyers present, the Inspector-General of Police had confirmed that the report could be made anywhere, and if the police officer in question refused to accept the report, he should be reported directly to him.
Suffice it to say that I had to speak to two further police officers. In the first conversation, I was basically told that even if I were to make a report at Bukit Damansara, I would still have to take a copy of that report to Petaling Jaya so that it could be keyed-in into the computer (since Bukit Damansara was not on-line). Otherwise it would have to be posted to the Petaling Jaya Police Station, which would take time. Bukit Damansara would not be able to give me a report number, so I would not be able to get a copy of the police report for insurance purposes. In turn I explained that we wanted to make a police report to comply with the law. The damage to my mother’s car was minimal and, besides, insurance companies do not entertain claims which are less than RM1,000 in value. We were not interested in getting a copy of the report for purposes of an insurance claim.
I was eventually passed on to a sergeant in charge, one Sarjan Zainudin. He said I didn’t understand. He even implied that his top boss did not really understand the process. He said we had to go to Petaling Jaya Police Station because as part of the reporting process police personnel would have to take photographs of the damage for the police report and subsequent investigation, and the insurance claim. I again explained that we weren’t interested in the insurance. We just wanted to make the report to comply with the law. If the investigating officer wanted to take photographs and investigate, he could contact my mother when necessary. When I tried to speak, Sarjan Zainudin was insistent that it had to be done as he had described. When I asked him for his badge number for reference, he mumbled that he was merely trying to help me but that if I didn’t want his help then he was done with me and slammed the phone receiver down.
Eventually I prevailed on the constable on duty simply to accept the written report. With signed and acknowledged copies of the police report in hand, we left.
I share this incident because, when all has been said and done, several questions need to be asked. If the police are there to help you, why do they make it so difficult for you? If a citizen seeks to do his duty and make a police report, why is there so much ‘red-tape’ and procedure? If I had not stood my ground, or if my mother had gone on her own, she would have been given the run around by the police. And even after the public reiteration by the Inspector-General of Police, his officers down the line remain stubbornly opposed to written directives and instructions.
Which left me wondering why, when the Malaysian Bar had asked for the implementation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), the government had instead responded with a much watered-down non-independent internal complaints procedure. The Barisan Nasional manifesto stated that security was a major issue, but was resoundingly silent about the IPCMC. I would venture to say that it is because of the collective stubborn refusal on the part of the government to hear the cry of the rakyat on matters such as these, repeated thousands of times over each and every day on a whole range of issues, that the rakyat in turn gave the decision they did to the government on Polling Day. The government cannot just say that it hears and is responding to the rakyat because the first-hand experience on the ground is just so far removed from the stated goal. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, and the government (and in this case also the Royal Malaysian Police) seriously need to improve. One hopes that with the increased Opposition presence in the next Dewan Rakyat, real progress can be made on the IPCMC.