CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION: It’s easy said than done.
Many are interested to see the MACC reveal the progress of ongoing investigations. Everyone wanted the MACC to be transparent as though the Commission is duty bound to the public as their stakeholders. The public must understand that, just being a tax payer does not make you as a master and the authorities are answerable to you.
The Commission by virtue of section 29(4) of the MACC Act 2009 is legally responsible to keep secret and shall not disclose the investigations to anyone except to the Public Prosecutor and officers of the Commission. However, the disclosure may be made with the consent of the Public Prosecutor or an officer of the Commission of the rank of Commissioner and above. The reasoning that the case is of a public interest does not make it legitimate for the MACC to disclose the facts of the investigation until and unless the accused person is charged in court.
The MACC must never be a mechanism to put the accused person on media trial. It must not associate itself to defame a person under investigation. The Commission must act responsibly to safe guard the dignity of not only the person it is investigating but his family and the community where he belongs.
However, the MACC has a panel representing the public to answer to. It is the Operation Review Panel which was established administratively to oversee that the Commission do perform its operational functions effectively. There are a number of times the Panel had after scrutinizing the operational functions of the MACC had made public the details of many investigations. I think it is more than what the public ought to know. The establishment of MACC is to enforce the law on corruption and not to put the person under investigation and his family on media or public trial.
Many especially certain bloggers had demanded the MACC to reveal its investigation especially on high profile cases. One of the case the quarters are interested is the ongoing investigation against the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Pehin Abdul Taib Mahmud. Lim Kit Siang in his blog-spot had asked the CM to take leave until the completion of MACC’s investigation. However, it is the prerogative of the CM himself to do that as there is no provision of the law to force him to so do. The principle that ‘a person is innocent till proven guilty’ shall apply to all. If you ask Taib to take leave, you should also have done so to Khalid and Lim Guan Eng when they were under the same predicament.
I have the opportunity to associate with the Commission on a number of occasions and have many times attended their round table discussions. I could understand the difficulty the officers face in bring a corrupt to trial. What offence could a person be charged for having millions of ringgit? If he is said to be corrupt, where is the evidence? Where is the witness? Who gave the so called corrupt payments? Is the person who gave the millions willing to come forward to testify? If there is a single person who gave the gratification and willing to stand in as a witness then I am sure the MACC have a case to prefer against the culprit. Even such the AG may refuse to issue consent to prosecute for a simple reason that the evidence is not strong. Otherwise, the MACC has no other lead but to swallow all accusations that it is ineffective, a tool to the ruling government, prefer selective investigation and the worse it has no ‘teeth’ to chew the flesh of high profile personalities especially within the government circle.
An individual who have in possession millions of ringgit could be charged for corruption if only there is proof to so do. The provisions of the MACC Act stipulates that a person commits an offence if corruptly solicits or receives or agrees to receive for himself or any other person any gratification as an inducement to or a reward for, any person doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction, actual or proposed or likely to take place. The MACC has to prove there were such an act and there is such a receipt of gratification. Unless it has, the allegation is merely an allegation or a perception. It remains so forever.
The other provision of the Act that could be used is section 23 – offence of using office or position for gratification. In the case of many politicians who hold public office, this is the best provision that could be used when they or their family members had accumulated properties like timber concessions, contracts or even land alienations. However, it must be proven that the politician holding such position had played active role or attended the decision making. If he declares his interest in the matter and leaves the decision making process then there is none so ever provision to accuse him for abuse of power. This is the shortcoming of our law. Even if the man in power declares his interest and leaves, the committee proceeds to make decision to award such contract, timber concessions or land to the person’s siblings or even to his firm. This makes the politician or persons holding public post to accumulate huge properties through their family members without committing any offence. There shall be a provision of law that no member of the family of the person holding public position could apply for such contracts, alienation and award. If such provision is approved in our law then there may have opportunity to control politicians especially from being filthy rich. Any politicians dare to vote for a likely provision?
MACC shall verify all allegations on bribery and unveil all evidence prior to prefer charges only when there is sufficient evidence and witnesses. MACC shall not circumvent to the demand of the small group of the so called activist.
MACC being an enforcement entity is legally bound to uphold the law without fear or favor. I suppose that the MACC had done that thus far. The MACC shall never be unmotivated for all the accusations by some unscrupulous individual who tried to capitalize some political mileage by lamenting at a government agency like MACC.
Nilai, Negeri Sembilan
12 June 2011.