From Walter Sandosam
News about the raids on a data firm owned by a prominent politician over the past few days is interesting reading. One is drawn by the speed of the raids by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) pursuant to reports being lodged.
At first glance, one is impressed with the haste being shown by an enforcement agency.
To add flavour, it has been reported that the customs department is also on full throttle.
Should the layman be impressed or is there more than meets the eye here? Regulatory institutions, especially enforcement agencies, should not be under any delusion that the public is naive and generally not able to make intelligent inferences.
The MACC Act came into force in 2009 under the then premiership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Part of the reason for the Act was to revamp the then Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). Among other things, it was accused of selective investigations and perceived lack of independence, not to mention competency and capability levels.
The Act followed the example of the Hong Kong graft busters wherein independent oversight committees and panels were emplaced to monitor the activities of MACC.
This was to dispel the notion that it was a “tool” subject to external interference by interested parties, not limited to the government of the day.
Being part of the initial cohort of independent persons brought in pursuant to the Act, I am most saddened to observe the steady decline of the image of the MACC over the past few years.
The pinnacle of this was reflected in the appointment of a non-MACC career officer (a recently “retired” politician) to the post of chief commissioner by Dr Mahathir Mohamad post-2018.
The appointment of that person reeked of meddling, notwithstanding that it is the prerogative of the government to make such appointments.
Recent events which were both pitiful and an unadulterated embarrassment to the oversight mechanism of the MACC included the resignation, indignation, of prominent economist Edmund Terence Gomez over the “purchase of shares” case involving the MACC chief commissioner.
The offering of conflicting statements by the advisory board of the MACC and the tardiness of the chairman of the committee, of which Gomez was a member, have seriously affected the credibility of the oversight mechanism provided by the Act.
To date, the efforts of the parliamentary sub-committee to get a clearer picture by calling up the chief commissioner have been thwarted. He has claimed that it is subjudice because he has taken up a legal case against the person who wrote an article in the media on this issue.
Now even Parliament has been dissolved and nobody is the wiser.
This adversely affects perception and is a reputational risk to MACC as an institution!
The MACC’s investigation into a judge who presided over a case involving a prominent political figure has had the rug pulled out from under it as it is now the subject of judicial findings on a point of law.
This prompted the chief commissioner to say that he would not comment anymore. Expediency by those in the loop to thrash this matter out speedily will not be out of place as it has been remarked that the image of the judiciary may be affected by the MACC’s comments.
In this context, the timing of the raids (or normal visits) raises eyebrows in certain quarters.
The question that begs asking is whether the much-publicised crusade against corruption has itself become corrupted due to the conduct of those chosen to set things in order.
Has the country reverted to the dark ages of pre-2009 and have all efforts taken to-date been in vain?
Surely Malaysia can do better.
Walter Sandosam is a former member of the MACC operations review panel.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.