PETALING JAYA: Several NGOs have urged Health Minister Dr Adham Baba to retract his suit against the Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center) after it linked him to a company being investigated over a RM30 million contract.
The group of 39 NGOs said the Perikatan Nasional government seemed to be returning to Barisan Nasional’s political style, with a suppression of freedom of speech.
“The RM30 million lawsuit against C4 for relaying statutory, publicly available information, and for requesting transparency on the part of the minister is preposterous.
“The civil suit filed by the minister is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate and silence critics,” they said in a joint statement today.
They said upholding transparency and accountability meant that members of the government would be subject to public scrutiny as well as criticism by civil societies.
They added that the minister should not view the allegations as an attack but a joint effort to refine Putrajaya’s governance for everyone’s benefit.
The NGOs defended C4’s decision to release the claims, maintaining that it was a reputable organisation which unveiled other scandals prior to this and contributed to improving the nation’s standing on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and World Press Freedom Index (WPFI).
“As Malaysian citizens, we denounce and oppose any attempts to muzzle and crack down on journalists and watchdogs through the security, legal and political apparatus of the state.”
Adham issued a letter of demand for RM30 million in damages against C4, giving the NGO seven days to pay the amount and to issue a public apology, failing which he would initiate legal action.
The health minister had dismissed C4 Center’s accusations, calling it a malicious attempt at character assassination.
A statement issued by his office said Adham had no business interests in Khazanah Jaya Sdn Bhd, named by C4 Center, nor any relationship with its shareholders.
C4 Center had alleged a connection between the contract parties and a shareholder in Adham’s company, which owns a chain of private clinics in Johor.
It said the shareholder was on the board of another company, which included two directors from Khazanah Jaya.
But the ministry said the shareholder, Iskandar Miza Ahmad, had left the board of the other company on Jan 30, 2015 while the two Khazanah Jaya directors, Tan Boon Keong and Tan Jiat Jui, only joined on his last day.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) launched an investigation into several contracts allegedly awarded after direct negotiations by the health ministry to procure equipment to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak. The equipment included test kits and protective gear.
MACC earlier denied reports claiming that several health ministry officers had been arrested over the matter.
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