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10 APRIL 2024

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Independence and the MACC

Will the 'independent' panel that will go through the findings of the already 'independent' MACC be truly independent?
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been the object of much criticism since it was established at the beginning of 2009. Last July, however, it seemed to have improved its image, with some of its senior officers showing determination to get to the bottom of the 1MDB scandal.
Some pro-establishment bloggers in fact accused the commission of being used by “certain parties” to make the Prime Minister appear like a criminal. MACC itself was pressured to transfer out some of the officers investigating the scandal. Notably, it resisted the pressure.
Nevertheless, the powers that be could have forced the transfer of those officers. It is safe to assume that the only reason they didn’t was that there was a loud outcry from the public against it. A significant segment of the public remain convinced that there is some form of wrongdoing in 1MDB, and that this is somehow linked to the infamous RM2.6 billion donation made to Najib’s private bank accounts.
While we may never know what truly happened in those fateful last days of July – the chaotic spirit of which was captured in a single photograph of the police headquarters burning from within – it is clear that the landscape of Malaysian politics changed somewhat afterwards.
The MACC itself has been alternatively subservient and defiant on the subjects of 1MDB and the donation, while calling for more independence and power to enable it to carry its duties effectively.
It now appears – or has been made to appear – that MACC is getting what it wants. An allegedly independent panel is being formed that will ostensibly give the commission the freedom to investigate high-level corruption in a transparent, professional manner. The panel will be composed of professionals not connected to political parties and recommended by the Special Committee on Corruption (SCC), which is headed by Dewan Negara President Abu Zahar Ujang, who is, by the way, an Umno member.
This panel will be presented with the MACC’s findings on high profile cases before these are presented to the Attorney-General. Abu Zahar has proclaimed that the setting up of the panel was highly significant in light of the MACC’s current investigation into a case involving the Prime Minister of the country and the sovereign wealth fund he set up.
Abu Zahar will have to forgive the many Malaysians who are still sceptical. His statement won’t stop the public from asking just how independent the MACC or the panel supervising it will be. We Malaysians have become highly suspicious of our government. While we welcome a supervising body to empower more transparent investigations, we are still haunted by Najib’s statement that he prefers people who are loyal to people who are smart.
Given that the SCC will be recommending the members of the panel, and that members of the ruling government are in the SCC, the final line-up will be examined under a fine microscope for evidence of attempts at ensuring the panel’s loyalty to Najib. If any of the members is found to be less than qualified by the standards of the rakyat, the panel will be rejected and if it makes any finding that favours the administration, that finding will be demonised as a blatant attempt to rehabilitate Najib’s and Umno’s image.
Veteran newsman Kadir Jasin has called for caution with regard to the proclamation by MACC chief Abu Kassim Mohamed that the commission is truly independent. He said he feared the proclamation was merely a ruse aimed at establishing credibility so that in the event that Najib is not found guilty, the rakyat will be forced to accept the results since they have accepted the MACC as independent.
Indeed, the question of independence of public agencies will always be looming like a guillotine over the tenuous line of trust between those who govern and those who are governed. The panel line-up will define how the MACC will be viewed by the rakyat going forward, and whether we will put any stock in Abu Kassim’s proclamation.

1 comment:

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