Whistleblower Protection Act has gaps, needs revamp, says C4

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Source: Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: The Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 is not good enough and needs to be revamped, says civil society group Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).

The anti-graft watchdog’s director, Cynthia Gabriel, said this following the jailing of Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, for 30 months, for revealing bank accounts relating to the National Feedlot Corporation’s (NFC) subsidiary companies and that of executive chairman Mohamad Salleh Ismail six years ago.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) call to the public to come forth with information rang hollow, Cynthia said, because the country did not protect whistleblowers who were brave enough to come out and report wrongdoing.

“The Whistelblower Act is not good enough and needs an entire revamp. You need to frame the act properly. If you remember, this was one of the acts that was passed at 4am in Parliament, when some of the MPs were either sleeping or not in the Dewan.

“The reason it was rushed through was because Malaysia had signed the UN Anti-Corruption Convention at that time and one of the obligations was to have protection for whistleblowers.

“So, they rushed through the act to show that we were complying with the UN, as we did not have freedom of information or asset declaration acts,” she told FMT.

Parliament passed the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 in May 2010 and it came into force on Dec 15 the same year.

In order to receive protection, a complaint must be made to an officer of an enforcement agency. The five key enforcement agencies are the Royal Malaysian Police, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Road Transport Department, MACC and the Immigration Department.

“There are clear gaps in our Whistleblower Protection Act, and we may as well not have an act at all. In Section 6 of the act, it says that one can only report to the law enforcement agencies, which includes the police and MACC. If a report is made to someone else, for example to an MP, you lose protection under the act.

“If you do a grand expose like what Rafizi did, then you totally lose your right. They say that you cannot report to the media.

“But in many Western countries, revealing your information publicly does not make you lose your protection, more so because you have taken that courageous step to make a public expose about it.”

Whistleblowers must be protected to fight corruption, she said.

“If you really want to defeat corruption, the only way to achieve this is to get more of the public to come forward and make reports, even if it is a small thing, like reporting on your boss, and you need the confidence that the one making the report will not be penalised.

“The law has to protect you, but in this case (Rafizi’s), the law was used to attack the whistleblower.

“This also applies to our case when we blew the whistle on the Scorpene submarines. We did not get dragged to court but we were dragged to the police station, the companies commission. The worst was, they raided our office and seized our files, and our personal security was completely threatened.

“We did not know which gangster would be out there to attack us. So this cannot be the environment for whistleblowing, you must give them protection and treat them like important heroes. Even if you do not want to celebrate them, you must protect them.

“Sometimes the whistleblower could be wrong and in that case defamation suits can be filled against them but you do not send a person to jail for 30 months for blowing the whistle on a corruption scandal.”

In this case, she said, it was the auditor-general who had exposed it first and not Rafizi.

“Rafizi was not fabricating anything but they took him to court anyway,” Cynthia pointed out.