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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cynthia Gabriel: I am ready to be called a foreign or CIA agent

Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) director Cynthia Gabriel, who has received the US-based National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) 2017 Democracy Award, says she is prepared to be accused of being a “foreign or CIA agent”. 
“I am prepared for that, I am ready. I take inspiration from the American people, as the last couple of months American civil society has shown how important it is to keep our institutions independent,” she said at the awards ceremony in Washington DC last night.
“Keeping democracy alive is about promoting rule of law, and fighting corruption is about fighting impunity,” added Cynthia.
Describing the environment in Malaysia as “hostile” for civil society, Cynthia thanked NED for recognising C4’s work.
“Now, more than ever, whistleblowers are being chastised, attacked, not only in Malaysia but everywhere around the world,” she said in her acceptance speech.
NED board member and Illinois congressman Peter Roskam presented the award to Cynthia.
Roskam said Cynthia is a human rights activist at home in Malaysia who turned into an anti-corruption fighter.
"She tackles corruption and she sees it as subverting the rule of law and promoting impunity," he said.
“And she sees it as a major impediment to democracy. She spent most of her professional life promoting human rights, good governance and democratic freedoms.”
Seeking the truth
In her acceptance speech, Cynthia said she was the one who had blown the whistle on the Scorpene corruption scandal in 2011, which involved the Malaysian government’s purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines from France.
She was part of the team in human rights NGO Suaram, which filed a judicial review in the French courts against Paris-based shipbuilder DCNS for allegedly giving illegal kickbacks to Malaysian officials. The case is still ongoing in France.
Cynthia said the case exposed corruption at the highest level as it allegedly involved then-Defence Minister and current Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who has maintained that the deal, inked in 2002, was above board.
The deal allegedly involved 114.9 million euros (RM452 million) in illegal commissions being paid to Perimekar Sdn Bhd - a company partly owned by Abdul Razak Baginda, a close confidante of Najib.
Abdul Razak has admitted receiving 30 million euros but denies it was for illegal commissions.
Following the filing of the judicial review, Cynthia and other Suaram members were probed under the Sedition Act 1948, Companies Act 1965, the Societies Act 1966 and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
“The whistleblower was chastised, our office was raided, we were pulled to the police station and Registrar of Societies over more than 15 times, we were questioned, harassed, and files were taken away from our office,” she lamented.
“There were threats (made) over social media, on Facebook, Twitter, which basically said, 'Watch what you do, we are coming after you'. It was frightening,” she recalled.

Cynthia thanked her immediate family members, who, despite fearing for her life, kept telling her how important it was to carry on with her work.
“What happened was something I never really thought would happen to me; it was just bizarre that they would come after the whistleblower and not even bother going after the complaint, let alone investigate the complaint,” Cynthia said.
“This is not something (in which) we can just say 'enough', or it’s time to shirk away and do nothing about it. It is important to stay the course, fight the good fight, it is important to seek the truth,” she added.- Mkini

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