COMMENT | MACC sending wrong signals on thorny issues

R Nadeswaran

Modified 17 Sep 2020, 11:19 pm

COMMENT | The MACC appears to be the last bastion of hope for aggrieved Malaysians. From voter fraud, potholes on the road to outright cheating and bogus cheap sales, everyone seems to be lodging a report with the commission.

While pained citizens ought to first go to the police or other enforcement agencies, the MACC is perceived – rightly or wrongly – as the one-stop centre to cure all the ills that afflict our country.

Because of its status, everyone wants to rush to make reports, even if there is no element of corruption or abuse of power. The slightest indiscretion by a civil servant or politician and immediately there’s a delegation outside the MACC office.

While some do it for the five minutes of fame before TV cameras and press photographers, others make their complaints discreetly, so that the evidence is not tampered with or the perpetrators alerted so that they can cover their tracks.

After the 1MDB fiasco in 2016, when the MACC through the attorney-general announced that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, public confidence in the system took a dive to an all-time abysmal low.

This was compounded when three officers, then chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed (above) and his two deputies, Shukri Abdull and Mustafar Ali, were hounded out of office. Their replacements were hardly inspiring with the new chief making the headlines for all the wrong reasons -- embroiled in an alleged personal illicit affair.

Besides, the telephone recordings released by the former MACC chief Latheefa Abdul Koya in January showed the nexus between him and the various parties involved in the 1MDB debacle. The records are now in the public domain to be examined and scrutinised.

Having been a member of MACC’s advisory panel on prevention, together with fellow editors Johan Jaafar and Husamuddin Yaacob, we were privy to some of its workings. On more than one occasion, we stood up and spoke our minds on the excesses of the executive and proudly supported the commission and its officers on various accusations.

I can’t speak for them but I can no longer express the same sentiments when such accusations are now made. When the issue of "illegal Musang King" farmers came to the fore about a month ago, all eyes were on what was going on.

But last week, the whole issue took a different perspective when about 50 farmers (below) were summoned by the MACC to have their statements recorded. The immediate reaction to reports of this news was extraordinary. The current MACC chief Azam Baki’s reactions were telling indeed.

Media reports quoted him as saying that the MACC had not summoned durian farmers in Raub who are accused of running illegal farms as alleged.

“That is incorrect. I do not know who is making such stories up,” Azam was quoted as saying. But even before the ink dried on the newsprint, farmers were lining up outside the MACC office (in Raub) to have their statements recorded.

The New Straits Times reported: “Confusion was written on the faces of durian farmers as they arrived in batches for questioning, believed over widespread land encroachment activities in the area. The confusion was partly due to Azam Baki's recent statement that no durian farmer had been summoned by the graft-buster to provide their statements on the issue.”

Now, now, please do tell me something is not amiss in this whole episode. The chief does not know what is going on in his own backyard? Who gave the okay for investigation papers to be opened?

Does the MACC care about public perception? Do their actions instil any confidence in the public? How do they expect cooperation from fellow Malaysians with such statements?

Waiting for five years

To aggravate its already plummeting reputation is the sordid affair involving the purchase of property by Mara Inc in Melbourne. It has been five years since the issue made headlines in Malaysia and Australia. It has been five years since MACC officials visited my office where I explained the whole course of events and handed over voluminous documents which supported the expose.

After the Australian Federal Police (AFP) charged one of the directors of the company for fraud in Melbourne, on Sept 4, I wrote: “Right-thinking Malaysians will certainly demand an explanation from the MACC over the inordinate delay. The commission has also been handed a copy of the 2019 Ernest and Young report which traces all the transactions.

“The report with flow charts and appendices identifies the personalities and identifies several instances of conflict of interest and other supposed misfeasance.

“If investigations had 'almost been completed in 2017', can the MACC tell us why the unwarranted delay instead of saying 'we are still investigating'?”

On Tuesday, after a 10-day hiatus, Azam Baki answered the question. Bernama quoted him as saying that the commission had discussed the matter with the deputy public prosecutor to see if charges could be filed against certain individuals under the law, based on the evidence to be obtained from the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

"If the law allows us to prosecute them, then we will prosecute certain individuals for Mara's case.”

Azam said the MACC's investigation into the case had been completed at the domestic level, and the commission had responded to questions over the matter in Parliament several times.

In April 2017, Azam Baki (who was then MACC deputy chief commissioner,  operations) said 24 witnesses had been called in to assist with investigations over the alleged acquisition of the property. He also said the commission had inspected seven premises, including a law firm, an appraiser's office and the Mara Inc office.

“All related documentation regarding the purchase of the property in Australia have also been seized. We have gathered more new information and it is a continuous investigation from the previous case in 2015,” Azam was then quoted as saying.

So what’s this “based on the evidence to be obtained from the AFP”? Wasn’t such evidence already made available to MACC? Are we being asked to believe that the evidence was only sought after one man was charged in Melbourne?

You can’t pin the blame on AFP for documents because there had been an ongoing exchange of information - and I know for a fact that the false invoices and documents related to the transfer of monies, etc, are already with the MACC.

It is said that it is futile to whip a dead horse, but can the MACC tell us something that is plausible, instead of finding excuses for their own follies and shortcomings?

R NADESWARAN believes the MACC is dragging its feet on the Mara scandal for reasons better known to its chief and his officers. Comments: [email protected]

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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