A retired top judge will head an inquiry into a Malaysian police abuse scandal sparked by a video showing a naked Chinese woman forced to perform squats in police custody, the prime minister said Friday. Former Chief Justice Dzaiddin Abdullah, along with another lawyer and three senior government officials, have been instructed to submit a report on the scandal in 30 days, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters.
"There is an uproar so we want to know what happened," Abdullah said, adding that the government will wait for the report before taking any action. He said he decided to appoint an external commission to allay suspicions of a cover-up.
All five panel members also belonged to a royal commission set up by Abdullah in 2003 to identify ways to improve the police force. The commission uncovered rampant graft and other abuses, and made more than 100 recommendations, including setting up an independent body to investigate complaints.
The new panel has been tasked with investigating standard operating procedures followed by the police when conducting body searches of detainees, following the public outcry caused by the video and subsequent police claims that the acts it displayed are normal procedure.
The video, secretly shot using a camera phone by an unidentified person, shows a naked Chinese woman being made to perform squats in the presence of a policewoman. The nude video has bolstered claims by human rights activists that police routinely mistreat detainees, and raised concerns that the Malay-dominated police unfairly target Chinese, whether they are Malaysians or visitors to the country.
Ethnic Chinese comprise about a quarter of Malaysia's 25 million people, while the majority are ethnic Malays. It was unclear whether the woman in the video was a Chinese national or a Malaysian ethnic Chinese, but China has formally protested and urged action over the alleged mistreatment. Malaysia has apologized to China. The Star daily reported Friday that police have identified the woman in the video but refuse to divulge her nationality, saying it would jeopardize investigations, reports the AP.