Fewer than half of Malaysians are confident that the newly-minted Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be effective in tackling graft in the country, a recent survey showed.
Expect the number of believers to drop even further after today, following the sham of a performance by Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan, the head of the MACC.
Let’s get this out of the way. Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim may have abused his position as the Selangor Mentri Besar and used state funds to maintain his sports utility vehicle and buy 104 cows to be slaughtered in his constituency. He may have. Who knows?
If he did, he should be charged in court and if found guilty, he should be convicted and punished, regardless of his political standing.
But like every other Malaysian, he should be accorded due process. More so by an authority that was trumpeted as the paragon of independence and justice by the Abdullah administration.
Especially by an authority which was finally going to convince cynical Malaysians that it could act without fear or favour.
We were duped big time. At an event in Penang today, Ahmad Said blurted out that the MACC felt that there was strong evidence to show that Khalid had abused his powers. “We would suggest that legal action and so on be taken, as we have strong evidence for both cases that abuse of power has taken place.
“Although we can make a decision to press legal charges but the commission feels that it is better if the AG makes the decision.
“Since the case involves a VIP, it is better if the case is referred to the AG, as there may be certain parties not satisfied with the investigation by the commission.’’
Ahmad Said’s statement is objectionable and curious on a few counts. Firstly, it is the policy of anti-corruption agencies the world over to refrain from going into the specifics of a case until a decision is taken to charge the individual. The ACA usually gave details to the press on the eve of the subject of the probe being charged. And yet Ahmad Said was generous with MACC’s take on Khalid’s case.
The anti-graft chief will be hard pressed to convince anyone that he was being even-handed in the treatment of the Opposition politician. Malaysians have lost count of the number of reports lodged against Umno/Barisan Nasional politicians which have not seen the light of day.
There are cases against Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Datuk Rafidah Aziz, Datuk Dr Khir Toyo and others.
Some cases are still being investigated years after reports were lodged.
Others have disappeared mysteriously. But the MACC was super quick in swinging into action after several Umno Youth politicians lodged a report against Khalid on February 6.
Why was Ahmad Said so keen to hang Khalid out to dry? Perhaps he and the MACC needed to appease Umno members — who have been bristling at all the focus being given to money politics in the party — that the graft busters are apolitical. Or perhaps he needed to assure those concerned that the new and more powerful MACC was really the tame and subservient ACA.
Or perhaps he wanted to put Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his place for shaming the MACC in Parliament yesterday. (Anwar accused the MACC of not following up a complaint that former Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mahadhir Khalid attempted to bribe a PKR lawmaker to cross over) Hard to fathom what Ahmad Said’s motivation was. All he succeeded in doing was sow the seeds of doubt into the minds of Malaysians who were willing to believe that the MACC is non-partisan and confirm for the cynics that few institutions, if any, are not tainted by politics.
Even more disturbing was Ahmad Said’s statement that the case had been referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers. When the MACC Bill was before Parliament, the government made a song and dance on how the new agency would not have to refer cases to the AG. A prosecutor was supposed to be seconded to the MACC and he or she was supposed to decide if a case should go to court.
Next week, Abdullah is scheduled to visit the MACC and officially launch the commission. Expect him to make the right noises and predict a bright future for the battle against corruption in Malaysia.
He may wish to ponder the findings of a recent survey by the Merdeka Centre. Only 48 per cent of the 1,018 registered voters polled were confident that the MACC would be an effective tool in the fight against corruption.
Only 19 per cent of Malaysians were satisfied with the federal government’s efforts in tackling graft. These numbers could dive after the Ahmad Said show in Penang today.
Majority of Malaysians not confident that MACC can tackle graft