Blow the whistle or what?
Unlike in the US where under their witness protection programme, the informer is given a completely new identity together with the family and relocated to an entirely different neighbourhood.
Our version only provides relocation of employment and immunity from civil court action or criminal prosecution for disclosing such information.
Even the parts of the Bill that means to arm enforcement agencies with the power to conduct their own investigations on improper conduct or other complaints has come under criticisim.
The main grouse is that these agencies are looked upon with jaundiced eyes by the public as over the years the former have earned the distrust of the latter by their perceived biased actions.
For all its good intentions, some parties still feel the Bill, which had been tabled for its first reading three days ago lacks the necessary punch to make it more effective.
This is vital in the government’s serious efforts to curb the cancerous growth of graft plagueing the civil service.
The need for such a legislation is deemed necessary,and long overdue since it was brought-up three years ago, through revelations of the Lingam video tape by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (right).
It is aimed at maintaining the government’s integrity and transperancy to stop the rot in the civil service in the effort to curb the cancer.
In the past, the government has been criticised for not doing enough to protect whistle blowers.
Will bill protect such cases?
We had seen cases like that of former Sabah Anti Corruption Agency director Mohamad Ramli Manan, who had made several allegations against his former boss, the agency’s director-general Zulkipli Mat Noor, who had since been cleared.
Similarly, there was also a poison pen letter alleging something wrong in the judiciary when former Chief Justice Mohd Eusoffe Chin, was seen holidaying with prominent lawyer VK Lingam in New Zealand.
Following the startling revelation, former High Court judge Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah Aidid had claimed responsibility for the 33-page letter alleging the abuses.
Although then Attorney General Mohtar Abdullah had cleared the case, Syed Ahmad Idid chose to resign.
The issue was further cemented following the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) formed to look into the Lingam video tape, where the RCI recommended action against six individuals, including former Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Against the backdrop of the two cases, questions will rise if such issues crop up again, such as will the current legislation be sufficient to protect witnesses?
Will they continue to come forward and assist in exposing such illegalities?
No clear agency looking into abuse
Transperancy International Malaysia president, Paul Low welcomed the introduction of the Bill, as it was a longtime coming.
He told Malaysiakini that it (the Bill) will be a powerful instrument in helping the government combat corruption and abuse of power.
However, he said the public has to be convinced that it would truly enforce the law and would act as a trustworthy agency for lodging complaints.
The advantage would be that the agency will be able focus on its role unburdened by other duties, said Low (right).
He added that the information received should be kept confidential and action must be swift and without fear of favour.
The agency receiving the information must be independent, he said.
And herein lies the rub, Low said questioning the ability of government departments or agencies to be independent in looking into complaints and protectioning the whistleblower.
“Will an alleged abuse case in police custody be looked at by the police or will the agency? There is no stated mechanism stipulated in the bill. It only says an enforcement agency will conduct the investigation.
“Ideally, the complaint should be looked at by an independent agency or an ombudsman with wide ranging powers. This is a point of principle where an alleged wrongdoing should not be looked at by the same department,” he said.
Relocation of informants needed
Bar Council chairperson, Ragunath Kesavan (left) said it is a good start for the government.
He, however, felt the provisions to relocate the witnesses or their family members and in terms of ensuring their safety had not been adequately addressed.
“I have gone through some of the provisions but my concern is over having a whistle blower relocated to start life anew with his family.
“Sometimes the information given maybe dangerous in nature and may involve big-time gangsters.
“Hence, the right of the informant and his family for personal security should have been included ,especially in terms of relocation,” he said.
Ragunath said there is only a provision for relocation of employment which is insufficient in his view.
“There is also protection against civil or criminal action but that should have been expanded further,” he said.