PETALING JAYA: Padang Serai MP N Surendran has described the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) demand on Lim Guan Eng to apologise for calling its detention of a Penang state executive councillor “illegal”, as an unhealthy development in Malaysia.
The PKR legislator said public bodies in a democratic country must never threaten legal action for criticisms in relation to their actions as it was the right of citizens to question or criticise such actions.
He said the MACC and its chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad also had no legal basis to undertake legal action, whether civil or criminal, against the chief minister.
“Dzulkifli should bear in mind that in a democracy, taxpayer funded bodies such as the MACC cannot bring an action for defamation against the public for any kind of criticism,” he said.
“It is both legally and morally wrong to do so, and it prevents transparency and accountability of public bodies,” he added.
“This seeming intolerance to criticism by an important public enforcement body is an unhealthy and disturbing development in our country,” he said.
Dzulkifli was quoted by Bernama as saying yesterday that the agency had so far not received any apology from Lim after he had been given an ultimatum to do so within 48 hours on Friday.
“We had asked Guan Eng to retract his statement and make an open apology within a stipulated period. If he does not do that, then we have to look at what action can be taken, whether civil or criminal,” Dzulkifli said.
Surendran said Section 499 of the Penal Code provides that any opinion in good faith on the “conduct of a public servant in the discharge of public functions” does not amount to defamation.
It also provides that any such opinion shall be presumed to be in good faith, he added.
“The Penal Code thus specifically recognises that criticism of public servants or bodies is legitimate, and protects such criticism,” he said.
“This is also consistent with Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech,” he added.
In a statement yesterday, Lim’s lawyer Ramkarpal Singh said Judicial Commissioner Abdul Wahab Mohamed, in setting aside the five-day remand order issued on Aug 12 against executive councillor Phee Boon Poh and two others, had effectively ruled that their detention was illegal since it was based on an invalid order.
Wahab had made the ruling on the order, made against Phee and the two owners of an illegal carbon processing factory at Sungai Lembu in Seberang Perai, at the Penang High Court on Aug 14.