Whistleblowers, beware ‘sabotage’!

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Whistleblower Khairuddin Abu Hassan - Image: themalaysianinsider.com

A whistleblower and his lawyer have to languish in prison when those who are sabotaging the credibility and integrity of the nation remain in power, observes K Haridas.

The more we hear, the worse seems to be the situation.

The government of the day must realise that websites or publications such as Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal hold more credibility than government spokespersons or their mainline media be it print, radio or television.

This is what happens when we defend the indefensible. Sarawak Report has already alluded to the existence of an alleged charge sheet drafted against the prime minister. Subsequent actions seem to convey the perception that there is some truth to these allegations. Even the recent 1MDB board minutes revealed by Sarawak Report have been confirmed as authentic by the 1MDB management.

Suddenly all hell breaks loose, and the so called independent task force established to look into the RM2.6bn that was deposited into the PM’s account is sent into hibernation. The resulting cabinet reshuffle, the immediate sacking of then attorney general, and the rushed appointment of a new attorney general all suggest the unspoken story of hidden hands at work.

What does this say about Malaysia? Those in power continue to act with impunity. In today’s age of electronic messages, the futility of the Official Secrets Act and what whistleblowers are doing indicate that the more the government supresses truthful information, the more these will be out in the public domain. It is amazing that action has not yet been taken against the powerful person who has reportedly received such a large amount in his account!

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The outgoing Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy commissioner, Zakaria Jaffar, says, “It so happens that as I am retiring, the MACC is probing a high profile individual. The officers involved in the case must be supported and be given a warrior spirit booster to face this most difficult battle. We are facing a probe involving the most powerful person in the country” he said, without naming anyone.

I was once at an ethics seminar about a year ago which was also attended by MACC officials.

During question time, a participant from the MACC lamented that they work so hard and do their utmost and yet receive only brickbats.

The moderator then remarked that it only takes MACC to arrest and prosecute one big fish, and the entire credibility and respect for MACC will change overnight.

The MACC is now facing such an opportunity. It is time our institutions have the teeth to make a difference. Without the capacity to prosecute, the MACC remains indebted to the attorney general’s chambers.

The perception of the attorney general leaves much to be desired. The former attorney general is perceived to have been cowed into silence as indicated by the former deputy chief of the Special Branch, Abdul Hamid Bador, who alleged that the ex attorney general had previously been crystal clear about prosecution.

The newly appointed attorney general, a former Kelantan Umno treasurer, seems to have been handpicked for his loyalty. He has done well to educate us by clarifying that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) is a procedural law that provides special measures to facilitate investigations for the prosecution of ‘security offences’ and that it is not limited, as perceived, to ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorists’.

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The attorney general further declares that the ‘Special Task Force’ has not been abandoned. This must be a relief to all the task force members. As a result, the MACC head has expressed a desire for the task force heads to meet. If it was not abandoned, why was the task force not allowed to continue with its task. This was in the hands of the new attorney general. Again, statements made which end up ridiculing the public.

I am sure this educates our parliamentarians who are famous for passing bills overnight without any committee deliberations or even realising that the same can be held against them. This highlights the rubber-stamp nature of our legislature. Bills are not forwarded to stakeholders for feedback. They are presented to the Dewan Rakyat and passed after several hours of debate with only the Opposition presenting views of concern. So much for ‘transformation’!

Take heart, MACC; Bank Negara has positioned itself and put the nation’s interest above people, personalities and power. Stand up and be counted. Be transparent and candid, and include the Malaysian public, and we will support your cause for the dignity of the nation. No individual, not even the PM, is above the rule of law or the Constitution.

This is not to say that there will be no backlash. Times are different from the days of the Mahathir era. We have a more open national and global climate. Technology and the online media encourage higher levels of investigative journalism. The cronies will be there, and those in power will cling together and hit back.

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I suppose we have reached a stage where any opposition to the government can also be described as ‘sabotage’. Beware, the Opposition!

They have used Sosma in a qualified sense against two individuals. This shows their desperation, a sense of revenge and the power of impunity to use laws and institutions against those championing accountability.

The numbers of those standing up is increasing. We have ex-Special Branch deputy director Abdul Hamid Bador, who has taken a clear and unequivocal position. We now also have Umno stalwart Khairuddin and his lawyer, Mathias Chang.

A couple of days ago, they were joined by several elder statesmen and ex-cabinet members who spoke out about the misuse of Sosma. With the attorney general’s clarification, Sosma has come to bite Umno itself and stands as a challenge to all who believe in fairness and transparency.

Yet, the law is the law and it can cut both ways. Congratulations, Barisan Nasional, the law you championed has come back to nail you.

So Khairuddin and his lawyer are caught for sabotage against the country by indulging in activities overseas. Perhaps this is extending the imagination of simple folk and the definition of sabotage! Well, we will have to see how this can be proved in court beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. Perhaps they will end up the same way as the case against The Edge publications.

So we await the trial to understand the ambit of ‘sabotage’. Meanwhile, two have to languish in prison. How unfair when those who are sabotaging the credibility and integrity of the nation remain in power.

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