Malaysia gets new police chief as force faces upheaval

He starts term amid controversies, including one over a comment he made regarding rape

Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, Malaysia's new police chief, has helmed various departments in his 35 years with the force. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, Malaysia's new police chief, has helmed various departments in his 35 years with the force. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Malaysia has a new police chief, who has 35 years of experience, to replace Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador who retired on Monday.

Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, 59, began his term as the new Inspector-General of Police yesterday, after receiving his letter of appointment from Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin last week 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 across the force - including commercial crime investigation, strategic resources and technology, as well as crime prevention and community safety.

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

Former IGP Hamid, commenting recently on his looming retirement, told The Straits Times: "I've always believed 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."

The appointment of the new police chief was met with a claim recently from the legal bureau of the Pejuang party of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. It said that Section 15 of the Police Act 1967 states that 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 had faced a public outcry after he said at a press conference 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 probe.

In appointing Mr Acryl last Friday, Mr Hamzah said Mr Hamid had agreed on the choice of his successor, and that it was with the consent of the Police Force Commission, or SPP.

In the weeks leading up to Mr Acryl's appointment, there had been speculation over an attempt to take political "command" of the police. A recent transfer exercise involving 71 senior officers that Mr 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.

When he was the IGP, Mr Hamid conducted extensive transfer exercises, including those involving state police chiefs, in a bid to reform an institution that is widely perceived to be corrupt.

Mr Hamid had previously told The Straits Times that his officers should not be in the same post for more than five years. He said 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.

Another incident involved a leaked audio clip in which Mr Hamzah was heard saying he was planning to install "our boy" in the force. Mr Hamzah has admitted that it was 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."

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

It was not clear who Mr Hamzah was referring to.

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

Mr Hamid 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2021, with the headline 'Malaysia gets new police chief as force faces upheaval'. Subscribe