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LETTER | Azam is answerable to the public when it comes to corruption

LETTER | The issue of MACC chief Azam Baki allegedly owning millions of shares in his name was first disclosed by PKR's Sungai Buloh MP R Sivarasa on Dec 14 last year.

While it was a hot issue questioning the integrity of the MACC, nothing was said or explained by the MACC or Azam. 

Three weeks later on Jan 5, Azam held a press conference to exonerate himself stating that “he did not immediately respond to allegations on his shareholdings because he believed he did nothing wrong.”

It is a strange position to take. If he was innocent as claimed, all the more reason he should have responded immediately. His silence was irresponsible, to put it mildly. 

The lack of an urgent explanation had unnecessarily invited comments damaging to his reputation. By not being accountable to public opinion, it encouraged comments that had tarnished the standing of the MACC. By not addressing the burning issue urgently, people doubted the integrity of the MACC.

When questioned by a journalist on why it took him some time to openly address the issue, he responded, "I did not respond (to the allegations) in public because I did not do anything wrong."

Well, it is not for him to conclude whether he did not do anything wrong but for the public to arrive at that judgment after considering his explanation. He cannot clear himself; he has to be cleared by others after listening to his explanation. That norm is succinctly captured in the idiom that says, “No man can be his own judge.”

It is another ludicrous statement to state: "Like what I have explained to the advisory board (the MACC Corruption Prevention Advisory Board, also known as LPPR), the shares were bought by my brother who borrowed my name.”

This is really intriguing.

Why had his brother borrowed his name? That has not been explained. Couldn’t his brother have bought those shares under his own name? What prevented him from doing so? What was the advantage of buying those shares in Azam's name? Was there a special discount or a special rate by doing so? 

Was his brother trying to get around a problem? What was the problem or the need? We need to know. 

Further, couldn’t Azam have advised his brother then that it would create difficulties for him when the issue became public, as it has now? As the MACC chief commissioner, Azam must always know that he must, like Cesar’s wife, be beyond reproach.

He further clarified: "When I was called to explain the matter, I appeared before the advisory board and provided them with details. I am only answerable to LPPR."

Surprisingly, he did not mention the date when he appeared before the board. We need to know when this took place. Was it after Sivarasa raised the issue or before that?

Malaysians cannot accept his claim that he is only answerable to LPPR.

Don’t turn technical when your moral integrity is at stake. Ultimately you are answerable to the public who pay your salary. You are accountable to us, the public.

In seemingly trying to extricate himself from this awkward situation, Azam stated that all the shares were later transferred back to his brother. Why this to-and-fro method of doing business? What was his brother’s gainful advantage in buying the shares under Azam’s name? Why this roundabout way of a transaction?

You cannot blame people if they think that it is a cock-and-bull story. 

When pressed further why he let his brother use his name to buy the shares, Azam said he did not see it as an issue. He also challenged his critics to prove that it was an offence.

"I did not see it as an issue, so I let him (buy the shares using my name)," he said. 

You are in charge of curbing and controlling corruption, not just some common man. When it came to light that you had this unexplained huge amount of shares, it put the MACC in a tight spot. The public has a right to ask, “Why put a fox in a chicken pen to guard the chicken?”

Azam also claimed that he had briefed his unnamed superior in the MACC back then about his brother acquiring shares in his name. This was done on his own initiative despite not having to do so, he added.

If the MACC was already aware of this case, wouldn’t it be natural for it to have come out with an immediate explanation rather than allowing it to drag on? Wouldn’t it be prudent on the part of Azam to have informed the board of this so that this situation could have been noted, minuted and put beyond question? Why didn’t he follow the right procedure?

According to Azam, what was happening now was an attempt by certain interested parties who want to erode the people's trust in the MACC.

If that was so, are you insinuating that the public is so stupid to swallow everything that was said by these interested parties? If you had responded immediately, the question of MACC losing the public trust would not have arisen. You had a duty to safeguard the MACC’s reputation but you failed to do so. You allowed the MACC to be dragged through the mud.

Azam pledged, "I give my assurance that I will continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities to bring the MACC towards being an agency that is credible, integrity (sic) and professional in all its actions." 

The sad truth is that it is now hard to believe you are the person capable to bring the MACC towards being an agency that is credible and professional. Your long silence and evasive answers are the cause for the erosion of public confidence in the MACC.

The writer is former president of Aliran. 

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

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