by Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Army Act 1972 contains all the laws governing good military behaviour. Unfortunately, the Act has no provisions for domestic violence…
It is no walk in the park when making a Police report, especially when the victim is a battered woman who has been treated as a punching bag by her abusive husband. The experience is definitely not for the faint hearted. I was privy to one such incident recently and can vouch for its authenticity.
The volunteer of an Ipoh-based NGO brought this Indian lady, who had suffered physical injuries as a result of beatings by her soldier husband, to the police station to lodge a report. The police officer on duty was helpful to an extent. As the recording progressed it took a different turn when he asked that the matter be referred to the military police, as the husband was a soldier.
Report to the Military Police? What a dumb suggestion. For a start, the Military Police (MP) is not in the business of policing soldiers who beat their wives. If he is referring to regimental police of army units they too are not tasked for such a job. The 2nd Infantry Brigade Headquarters, Ipoh has only a detachment of Military Police consisting of about 25 personnel led by a subaltern. They are part and parcel of the headquarters. The primary duty of this MP detachment is to enforce discipline on soldiers within the brigade. They, however, excel in one responsibility which is so often required of them – preparing road signs. You see these signs often at traffic junctions – black metal plates with white letterings on them with the distinctive arrow pointing up or sideways.
This particular police officer’s line of questioning made it obvious that he was still unfamiliar with the extent of the Domestic Violence Act 1994. The Act, passed by Parliament in 1994, is to provide protection to victims of domestic violence and is applicable to wives, husbands and children below the age of 18. It is applicable to all Malaysians regardless of race, religion and gender. The Act is consistent with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
One other point I frequently harp on at public forums, is the role of the armed forces. Fair, the military is a discipline body, this is a fact. Needless to say, soldiers are being guided by a set of rules they have to obey. Otherwise, it makes a mockery of soldiering if the men in uniform are free to act on their own.
Army Act 1972, which replaced the antiquated Malay Regiment Enactment 1948, contains all the laws governing good military behaviour. Unfortunately, the Act has no provisions for domestic violence. The military, therefore, cannot act on personnel who beat up their spouses and children. The Military Police has no powers of arrest for such improprieties. However, the military can take action on soldiers who are being penalised by a civil court. If imprisoned, even for a day, they can be dishonourably discharged from service. This is an administrative action taken to keep the good name of the armed forces intact. Similarly, if the soldiers are involved in drugs, either as pushers or users, they can be discharged upon conviction in a civil court of law.
When a report is made or received from the Police or welfare officers, an Interim Protection Order (IPO) is issued by a civil court of law. The order is to prevent the abuser from further harming the victim. IPO is valid for not more than 12 months from the date it is issued.
Before the victim can make the mandatory police report, one other indignant she has to suffer is at the Ipoh General Hospital. A medical report compliments a police report in order to make the case stick. This poor Indian lady had to wait over four hours at the emergency room for her turn to be called.
There is a system of check and balance, after all. BAKAT (Badan Kebajikan Angkatan Tentera) is a social club for military wives. Every military unit has a club which is helmed by the unit commander’s wife. Had the lady made use of BAKAT to report her husband’s violence, the matter would have been resolved a long time ago. Unfortunately, she has only a vague idea of its existence.