Malaysian Bar raises doubt over seriousness to reform anti-graft body

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru has raised concerns over the recommendations to reform MACC. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, December 16, 2015.

The Parliament’s reaction to the proposed recommendations to reform the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) reflected how serious those in power were in tackling graft in the country, participants in a seminar were told today.

Steven Thiru, the president of the Malaysian Bar, said the way the recommendations were pitched would determine if they would survive the passage in Parliament.

He, however, admitted that “we may not get all that we ask for”.

Steven was answering a question raised by a participant in the seminar on reforming the anti-graft watchdog in Kuching, Sarawak.

What the Bar, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) and Citizens Network for a Better Malaysia were asking for was the creation of the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (IACC), expanding the definition of gratification and the power to investigate individuals living beyond their means, amending legislations such as the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, the Witness Protection Act 2009, adoption of a Freedom of Information Act and an Asset Declaration Act.

The IACC would have to be a constitutional commission that has the full autonomy to determine strategy, policy, the recruitment and disciplining of staff in its investigative arm.

More importantly, what MACC themselves are crying for too, was separating the offices of the attorney-general (A-G) and the public prosecutor, and a review of prosecution practices to ensure that conflicts of interest between the two could be prevented.

Thiru said now there was a conflict of interest by the A-G if he, as the legal advisor to the government and prosecutor, had to make a decision whether to prosecute a government official.

He said Malaysians had seen this example of conflict of interest in the case of Bank Negara recommended prosecution in a case relating to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) while the A-G did not see fit to prosecute.

Thiru nonetheless said whatever opinion people might have of the commission before and feared that the recommendations could get trashed by Parliament, they should not give up on the commission.

“We cannot give up on MACC. Giving up on them should not be our approach.

“We can’t have the laws of the jungle.”

Earlier in his opening address, Thiru said MACC was suffering from a perception problem because the public doubt its independence and transparency as it was under the Prime Minister’s Office.

He said to rid negative perception, the commission had to be autonomous and independent from the executive in order to combat corruption effectively. – December 16, 2015.