Malaysia gets new police chief as the force faces several controversies

Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani receiving his letter of appointment from Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin (left). PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian government on Friday (April 30) named a veteran cop with 34 years under his belt as the next police chief to replace Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, who is retiring next week.

Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, 59, will start his term as the new Inspector-General of Police on May 4 after receiving his letter of appointment from Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin amid several controversies involving the police force.

Since joining the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) on Feb 2, 1986, Mr Acryl has held various positions and helmed several departments in the force. These included the Commercial Crime Investigation Department, the Strategic Resources and Technology Department (StaRT) and the Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department.

On Aug 14, 2020, he was appointed the deputy police chief of the 138,000-strong RMP.

Outgoing IGP Hamid, commenting on his retirement recently, told The Straits Times: "I always believe that there are a lot of other people who are way better than me, and now it is time to let that person take over."

In the Malaysian civil service system, a policeman will usually retire when he reaches 60 years old, but his tenure may be extended.

Mr Acryl's appointment as IGP is set to expire on Oct 3, when he reaches 60, but as happened with recent police chiefs who reached retirement age, his service is likely to be extended.

The appointment of the new police chief was met with a claim from the legal bureau of the Pejuang party of former premier Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (April 27) that Section 15 of the Police Act 1967 states no police officer may retire or resign during war or while a proclamation of emergency is in force.

Malaysia is under a state of emergency to combat a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Several controversies involving the police force have broken out in recent weeks.

Mr Acryl faced public backlash after he said at a press conference on that a rape threat against a teenager "may be a joke" which the victim could not accept.

The police later issued a statement to clarify that the force takes rape threats seriously and that the remarks were under police probe.

In appointing Mr Acryl on Friday, Mr Hamzah said IGP Hamid had agreed to the new post, and that it was with consent of the Police Force Commission, or SPP.

"I would like to inform you that the process was done by SPP with the consent of all members of the commission chaired by me," Mr Hamzah told reporters. "Everyone agreed with Acryl Sani's appointment as the new IGP. In fact, Abdul Hamid also agreed."

In the weeks leading up to Mr Acryl's appointment, there was speculation over an attempt to take political "command" of the RMP.

A recent transfer exercise involving 71 senior police officers that IGP Hamid had approved was postponed, allegedly by Mr Hamzah.

The transfers went ahead after the minister defended himself by saying he had not interfered, and after the issue was raised by opposition leaders, who told the minister not to interfere with the powers given to the police chief.

Since taking the role, Mr Hamid has conducted extensive transfer exercises, including those involving state police chiefs, in a bid to reform an institution that is widely perceived to be corrupt.

Leaked audio clip

In an audio clip leaked on social media in the past few days, Home Minister Hamzah is heard saying he was planning to install "our boy" in the force.

Mr Hamzah has admitted that it is him in the clip and that it was recorded "some time last year", but denied any wrongdoing.

In the clip, he is heard telling an unknown person: "Now we want to decide on directors. Because I have taken over (as the SPP chairman), I told him that you cannot have choices. You can give names, let's say five people. Let me know and we will decide."

The minister then adds: "It is not for you to decide any more like before. All state police chiefs you cannot decide."

It wasn't clear who Mr Hamzah was referring to.

Responding to Mr Hamzah's admission, IGP Hamid said on Friday: "This is what should be avoided. A minister cannot interfere with the management of daily tasks."

The outgoing police chief was quoted by FreeMalaysiaToday news site as saying: "I have already raised this with him (Hamzah). I already raised it with the chief secretary to the government... This is not good for the country."

Mr Hamid has previously told The Straits Times that his men should not be in the same post for more than five years and regular transfer exercises are done to prevent police officers and related personnel from establishing close personal connections with those they monitor - from businesses to underworld figures - which could lead to misconduct.

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