RECENT events over the alleged misconduct of three Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers in relation to the case items associated with former Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation director-general Hasanah Abdul Hamid has put our foremost graft fighting agency under the spotlight. There have been voices pressuring for the suspension of MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki over the discovery that three of its officers were implicated.
As the story unfolded over the days, the public is being feted with interesting titbits of how our intelligence conducts business behind the scenes. Hasanah, the “spy lady”, has already made a police report, revealing that it is business as usual to stash millions of cash in US dollars in anonymous apartments and condominiums, gifts from unidentified foreign friends for political purposes.
We don’t really know yet what happened to the millions at the moment as investigations are still ongoing. The facts that have been revealed so far is that three MACC officers, including a senior officer, have been arrested last week by the body itself for alleged abuse of power and misconduct under Sections 23 and 36 of the MACC Act 2009. Police have also undertaken its own investigations and arrested the three officers. Subsequently, drugs, firearms and ammunition were found in the house of one of the three.
With such revelations, the burning question is, should the chief commissioner step down for the alleged crimes of his officers? Secondly, can the agency be trusted with the task of investigating its own officers? Finally, how should we move on from here?
Before we answer those questions, let’s take a look at other similar cases.
Last month, two Immigration officers who were arrested in the Ops Selat raid last year, were charged with and fined for accepting bribes as inducement to release foreigners entering the country without going through proper procedures. This is a serious breach of trust and abuse of power from the immigration authorities that amounts to a national security risk. But were there calls for the director-general to quit his post? No.
In March this year, three police officers including a senior ranking officer were arrested in Johor Baru for being involved in a drug syndicate and extortion. The senior officer was suspected of selling drugs, also case items, that have been confiscated by police from the syndicate that was supplying drugs to a neighbouring country.
As public perception holds, police have a responsibility to protect the rakyat from gangs, criminal syndicates and drugs. The police force ended up arresting, investigating and subsequently charging their own officers for the crime. One can even applaud them for their professionalism and transparency of their actions.
At that time did we hear of any calls for the inspector-general of police to step down or to be suspended while the force investigated their own officers? Or that it warrants an outside body investigating this case as it involves cross-border criminal activities and can even be a national security threat? No.
There have also been numerous cases of officers of public enforcement agencies, whether they are from the Customs, the forestry department, the Road Transport Department, Immigration or the marines being involved in misconduct or criminal activities, many of whom have been investigated, charged and punished over the years. Nobody is condoning these activities, but the fact remains that they do happen here and in any other countries. I cannot recall those events where the head of the departments were pressured to step down or be suspended.
If the argument is that the chief of an agency must step down to allow fair and impartial investigations, then we should have equal standard operating procedure across all agencies, and for that matter any political parties whose members were found to be allegedly involved or linked to some crime. The organisation head must be suspended while investigations is pending.
Are we prepared to have it that way? Will it send a sound warning to all agency heads to ensure all their personnel are clean?
Perhaps it might, one might argue, but I can foresee that more cover-ups will occur. Instead of being transparent about any cases involving their own officers, perhaps the agency might resort to covering up because the implications are so severe for the chief of the agency.
Will we see more transparency or less transparency?
For the benefit of the doubt, I applaud MACC for arresting their own officers, opening investigation papers and giving assurance that it will not compromise if any of its officers were found to be guilty. It has done so within its ambit of power under the MACC Act. And it has not stopped the police from having parallel ongoing investigations that concerns the ambit of power accorded to the police.
What the MACC needs to do is to restore public confidence. It needs to be transparent and to come across as seriously uncompromising in fighting graft, whether outside or inside its own force. The public awaits its next course of action regarding the three officers.
Whatever happens next, one thing about the present chief commissioner is that he has not shown fear or favour for any investigations. His team under his leadership has been paramount in recovering lost assets from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal throughout the changes of governments. This has been recognised the world over. The only people who will benefit or gain from the suspension or departure of the chief commissioner will be the main individuals of the “court clusters.”
Rather than tearing down the MACC over the three officers now, how about putting pressure on the government to empower the MACC with more “bite” to pursue its own investigations without interference? We need to continue to push for policy reforms that will enable the MACC to function with greater independence and autonomy. We can emulate Hong Kong and Indonesia’s anti-corruption agencies and learn how they get to be where they are. That would be a worthwhile effort to help empower our foremost graft fighting agency.
And that would be the way forward for the MACC that we can be proud of. – September 27, 2021.
* Blue Wolf reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.