I write to commend Tan Sri Robert Phang on his bravery in revealing the true outcome of the meeting with the attorney-general on Jan 4 2011 and refusing to become a mere rubber stamp, as many governmental mechanisms have appeared to become.
The statement of Ramon Navaratnam that Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail had convinced the commission that there was nothing questionable about his trip to the Holy Land and the MACC panel members were satisfied with the attorney-general's explanation that there was no evidence to link him to the accusation, simply seemed too quick to conclude the deal.
By saying to the public during an interview that the accusation against the attorney-general "are just mere allegations" and "allegations against an individual not substantiated with proof cannot be seriously considered, otherwise it will be a breach of the rule of law which must prevail at all times", Naravatnam had acted like a judge in the matter making a finding, forgetting that he is merely a member of the MACC Advisory Board appointed under Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, whose duty is to advise the commission on any aspect of the corruption problem in Malaysia, to advise the commission on policies and strategies of the commission in its efforts to eradicate corruption, to receive, scrutinise and endorse proposals from the commission towards the efficient and effective running of the commission, to scrutinise and endorse resource needs of the commission to ensure its effectiveness, to scrutinise the annual report of the commission before its submission to the special committee on corruption, and to submit its comments to the special committee on corruption as to the exercise by the commission of its functions under the act.
None of the provisions in the act has empowered the advisory board to investigate into any matter lodged with the MACC against any individual and to make any findings on behalf of the MACC.
Investigations should be conducted by the duly trained officers of the commission as envisaged under Section 29 of the act and the result of which shall be sent to the public prosecutor to decide whether to prosecute as prosecution of any offences under the act can only be conducted with the consent of the public prosecutor.
It is interesting to note that the attorney-general is the public prosecutor. So who shall decide whether to prosecute the attorney-general is another question that had been duly raised by Phang before, but unfortunately doesn't seem to have attracted interest of any minister in the Cabinet and was not heeded by Abdul Gani himself during the Jan 4 meeting.
In response to Phang's statement, Naravatnam emphasised that "it is my judgment and view as the chairman of the advisory panel. I have the right to state my judgment on behalf of the panel".
I understand that the chairman should only speak on behalf of the board if authorisation is duly given by its members. Had this been done?
Phang's response has clearly suggests a "no". Would that mean that the chairman has bypassed the members of the board in coming to a conclusion that the attorney-general had no case to answer? We shall leave it to the members of the advisory board to clarify.
In any event, the Malaysian needs someone like Phang to speak the truth. Perhaps he is the only Tan Sri in our country who dares to act so fearlessly against the authority to such an extent.
In fact he should be more than qualified to be appointed as a member of the Royal Commission for Teoh Beng Hock's case.
Let's see whether his appointment as a member of the Advisory Board will be renewed after the expiry of his tenure which is coming real soon.
Eric Tan Pok Shyong is an advocate & solicitor of the High Court of Malaya, and Selayang Municipal Councillor.