Transparency International urges MOE to protect whistleblower teacher

Desmond Davidson

Transparency International Malaysia director Muhammad Mohan says whistleblowers like teacher Nurhaizah Ejab, who exposed a colleague's absenteeism, should be duly protected. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 26, 2023.

TRANSPARENCY International Malaysia (TI-M) has added its voice to the calls for the Education Ministry (MOE) to give full protection to whistleblower teacher Nurhaizah Ejab against any form of retaliation or intimidation.

Nurhaizah, a key witness in a case brought by three Sabah students against their former English teacher who was absent from teaching their class for seven months in 2017, has allegedly received death threats.

TI-M president Muhammad Mohan, in praising Nurhaizah’s bravery, said the MOE should protect Nurhaizah from any real or implied harassment and issue a warning that anyone who harasses or threatens witnesses and whistleblowers will be severely dealt with.

The protection, he said, would be consistent with the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010.

One of the hallmarks of good governance is being truthful, transparent and accountable for one’s actions, and to protect whistleblowers who very often face risks in speaking the truth and exposing wrongdoing, Muhammad said in a statement. 

The High Court on July 18 found the absent teacher, Mohd Jainal Jamran, to have been negligent in being absent from work without cause. The court awarded damages to the three students.

They were each awarded RM50,000 to be paid by the five defendants in the case – Jainal, then principal of Taun Gusi Secondary School Suid Hanapi, the education director-general, the education minister, and the Malaysian government.

The High Court ruled that the defendants breached their statutory duties and violated the students’ constitutional guarantee to education.

Muhammad said the trial heard disturbing revelations of absenteeism, cover-ups, intimidation and lack of accountability. High Court judge Leonard David Shim’s ruling highlighted how the principal failed to take reasonable steps to exercise disciplinary control over Jainal despite knowing about the latter’s absenteeism.

Muhammad said the government “has an opportunity to use this judgement to improve governance culture within the civil service”.

He said the government should enforce the “surcharge” clause against any public servant found to have been negligent and abusing their positions, and make it easier for whistleblowers to report issues without fear of being reprimanded, harassed or penalised.

“Make the prime minister’s numerous calls to fight corruption and raise the level of integrity a reality.

“Foster a positive culture within the civil service that prioritises accountability and the exposure of all wrongdoing,” said Muhammad. – July 26, 2023.

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