Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 14th January 2010:
Abu Kassim cannot have a more disastrous start as second MACC Chief Commissioner if his first priority is to restore public confidence in the MACC and the national anti-corruption campaign
Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed cannot have a more disastrous start as the second Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner if his first priority is to restore public confidence in the MACC and the national anti-corruption campaign which had plunged 33 rankings in 15 years from No. 23 in 1995 to No. 56 in 2009 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
The MACC had ended its first year with lower public confidence than when it started, fulfilling the worst fears of former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah had warned at the belated launching of MACC on 24th February last year that the MACC should not end up as just pretty window-dressing of its predecessor the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).
The then Prime Minister had admitted the public perception of the ACA as “not being independent, of being a toothless tiger, of practicing selective enforcement, being late in taking action and not being professional in its investigations has damaged its image and credibility”.
Abdullah had announced at the launch of the MACC that the new anti-corruption body was to mark “the beginning of a very important chapter in Malaysia’s agenda to strengthen integrity and fight corruption” with the MACC able to stand up to scrutiny.
It is sad, tragic but true that in its first year of operation, the MACC was guilty of all the sins of the ACA and more.
There was not only no new start in an all-out war against corruption –MACC proved to be even worse than the ACA in being prepared to be the catspaw of its political masters to served the Umno/Barisan Nasional political agenda to declare war on Pakatan Rakyat instead of declaring war on corruption, which is why there is the scandal of the mysterious death of Teoh Beng Hock at the MACC Headquarters in Shah Alam on July 16 last year!
Is Abu Kassim prepared to herald a belated new beginning for MACC as intended by the former Prime Minister?
The second MACC Chief Commissioner will be performing a grave national disservice if all he wants to do is to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan.
But if Abu Kassim wanted to give another go to try to fulfill Abdullah’s parting injunctions to MACC before stepping down as Prime Minister, the new MACC Chief Commissioner has got it all wrong in his first media conference.
Abu Kassim’s vow to invoke Section 29(4) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 would show that he is incapable of the “big picture” of single-mindedly spearheading an all-out war against corruption to thrust Malaysia into the front rank of the world’s least corrupt nations and place the MACC in the company of internationally-recognised independent, effective, professional and successful graft-busting organizations like Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
What is Abu Kassim trying to prove with his vow that he would fully enforce Section 29(4) of the MACC Act 2009 and prosecute those who divulge information on corruption reports they lodge with the MACC, as Section 29(4) provides that such reports “shall be kept secret and shall not be disclosed by any person to any person other than officers of the Commission and the Public Prosecutor until an accused person has been charged in court for an offence under this Act or any other written law in consequence of such report, unless the disclosure is made with the consent of the Public Prosecutor or an officer of the Commission of the rank of Commissioner and above”.
Further, what is Abu Kassim trying to prove when he warned that any person who divulge information about corruption reports lodged with the MACC or editors who publish such information would on conviction be liable to two years’ jail or RM100,000 fine, when the fine in the law is RM10,000?
Abu Kassim is legally right but morally wrong.
The law barring a person who lodges a report on corruption from making any public disclosure about his report on pain of committing a criminal offence liable to RM10,000 fine or two years’ jail or to both had been on the statute books for the past 13 years since the passage of the Anti-Corruption Act 1997. [Section 21(4) ACA Act 199]
However, this provision had never been invoked in the past 13 years although there have been countless cases of corruption reports being divulged publicly by the person who made them and being reported.
It could not be that the heads of the Anti-Corruption Agency from 1987 to 2008 and the Chief Commissioner of MACC in 2009 were unaware of this provision and had not invoked it out of ignorance.
The only reason is that such a provision inhibits public co-operation in the battle against corruption.
In any event, such a provision could be easily circumvented, with the person who wishes to lodge the corruption report going public about his intention a day before the actual report, even announcing word for word the corruption report he intends to lodge the next day, as such an action would not be caught by Section 29(4) of the MACC Act 2009.
The more important question is why Abu Kassim has chosen such a clampdown as his signature as the second MACC Chief Commissioner?
Nobody buys his reason for such a clampdown - to deal with complainants lodging a report with an ulterior motive other than wanting to curb corruption.
This is an unacceptable argument as the MACC Act provides for heavy penalties under Section 27 for anyone who makes false or misleading statements to the MACC as liable to RM100,000 fine, two years’ jail or both.
If MACC is serious about spearheading an all-out war against corruption, it should facilitate and encourage the public to give information or make reports and not obstruct public co-operation as threatening to take action against those who publicly divulge information about their corruption reports.
In this sense, Abu Kassim would prove to be worse than Ahmad Said and his other predecessor ACA Director-Generals since 1997.
I call on Abu Kassim to retract his threat to fully invoke Section 29 (4) of the MACC Act and to announce that he will follow the precedents set by his predecessors in ACA and MACC and will not invoke Section 29(4) which will frighten off the public from co-operating with the anti-corruption body.
In fact, Abu Kassim should publicly support the repeal of Section 29(4) of the MACC Act 2009.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor