MBPJ action did not breach whistleblower law, says lawyer

Fernandez who is also a councillor says that it is not the practice of MBPJ to disclose a complainant's details to a third party. (Youtube screengrab)
Fernandez who is also a councillor says that it is not the practice of MBPJ to disclose a complainant’s details to a third party. (Youtube screengrab)

PETALING JAYA: An expert on local government refuted a local resident’s claim that the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) breached the whistleblower protection law by revealing her details over a soil erosion complaint against a developer.

Lawyer Derek Fernandez said the Whistleblower Protection Act is applicable only when an alleged crime was involved.

“But in this case, what crime was involved? This was merely a complaint on sand flowing,” he told FMT, when asked about the resident’s claim.

Cynthia Hor, a Damansara Perdana resident, had complained that MBPJ disclosed her home address to a developer of a construction site near her house.

In the letter dated Feb 9 to developer Mammoth Empire Holdings Sdn Bhd, the council told the company to take immediate action under the Street, Drainage and Building Act to resolve soil erosion issues.

She had lodged the complaint with the council, asking them to check if a possible landslide may take place near the construction site.

Hor claimed that MBPJ’s action in sending the letter to the developer with her name and address had violated the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Having said that, Fernandez, who is also a councillor, told FMT that it is not the practice of MBPJ to disclose a complainant’s details to a third party.

“It is not the council’s policy to release information about a complainant,” he said, adding he will raise this issue at the council’s full board meeting on Monday.

Meanwhile, lawyer Foong Cheng Leong said that the privacy protection law does not cover information owned by state and federal governments.

“PDPA is only applicable in commercial matters,” he said, referring to the Personal Data Protection Act.

Foong was responding on whether the complainant’s personal information was governed under the PDPA.

He added local councils do not have the duty to protect complainants’ information from third parties, such as the contractor or developer involved in the complaint by Hor.

“In this Damansara Perdana resident’s case, the party to whom the complaint is directed has the right to know if the report lodged to the council was credible and whether it was done in bad faith,” he said.

Former MBPJ councillor Mak Khuin Weng said the council “should have some common sense” when exercising their duty in protecting a complainant’s details.

“The Local Government Act mandates local councils to keep details of house owners’ tax details. Of course any other information about local councils should have the same treatment,” he said.

According to Mak, MBPJ disclosing the complainant’s details could place them under unnecessary pressure.

“They may be subjected to a possible defamation suit from the developer.

“You don’t reveal the source of the complaint. The council’s job is to check the validity of the complaint and, if companies are found to have breached rules in development, just take the necessary action under the law,” Mak said.

Shock over PJ council’s policy of disclosing complainant’s identity