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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Failure of Our Institutions

by Art Harun

When MACC opened a Twitter account some months ago, I was actually pleasantly surprised that it chose to follow my twitter account. I promptly decided to return the compliment by following MACC on Twitter.

From then on, I could read MACC’s instant reports of the Teoh Beng Hock RCI proceedings on Twitter. I must say it was a good initiative by MACC. Kudos to whoever that was in MACC who decided to utilise the social-networking facility by engaging the cyber-society through Twitter.

During the height of the Sarawak election campaign, I decided that it was about time that I had a two-way communication with MACC over Twitter. Conscious of the fact that the biggest election issue for that election was the alleged wealth – which were not rebutted and categorically denied – of Taib Mahmud and his family members, I decided to tickle MACC’s feet with a question.

My question to MACC over Twitter was “why doesn’t MACC investigate the wealth of Taib Mahmud?”

I did that because from what I gathered over various reports – which I must say were unconfirmed but were not met by firm denials – Taib Mahmud and his family members own vast properties in Sarawak, Canada and other countries. The wealth imputed to him and his family would, if proven to be true, far exceed the amount of his salaries, allowances, bonuses and perks as a Chief Minister, even if it is assumed that he spent all those income on acquiring properties and nothing else throughout his tenure as the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

To my simple mind, surely Taib Mahmud has a lot to explain on how he managed to acquire such vast properties during his tenure as the Chief Minister. If he said that he was a good businessman who manage to accumulate such wealth, then the next question would be where did he find the time to undertake such businesses when he should really be managing Sarawak on full time basis.

So I asked MACC the above question on Twitter.

The reply which I got from MACC was disappointing, to say the least. It was either a sign that MACC did not fully understand its functions as an agency or was reflective of an institution which exists just as a Christmas decoration on a very colourful street in GagaLand.

The reply was “we need proof, we will investigate only when there is proof.” Or something to that effect.

And so I shot back, “isn’t the function of investigation to find proof?”

I did not get any reply to that one till today.

My public engagement with MACC thus met with an early termination.

MACC perhaps does not really understand what its functions as an investigative agency are. May I put it in simple term.

When there are any report of alleged corruption or abuse of power, MACC is supposed to investigate. If the reports are clear enough, MACC does not even have to wait for the public to lodge a report. Any of its officers can lodge a report to start the ball rolling.

MACC does not wait for proof. MACC is supposed to find the proof by investigating into the matter. The purpose of investigation is to get proof. If there are proof, there is no real necessity for and investigation. Get it, MACC?

In any event, the real purpose of an investigation is not to get proof. It is to get information and evidence. It is not for MACC to proof anything at all. When MACC completes the investigation, it has to compile all the information and evidence and send it to the Attorney General Chambers.

The AGC is then supposed to decide whether all the information and evidence gathered by MACC constitute sufficient proof to prosecute the person being investigated. It is not then for MACC top proof anything. The burden of proving guilt is on the AGC if and when it decides go prosecute.

Get it, MACC? Or do you want me to spell that out in Bahasa Melayu?

Last week I read that MACC was to investigate Taib Mahmud. Good for you MACC. Have you got the proof now, may I ask? Or you have finally understood what you were supposed to do now eh?

While I am at it, may I suggest that MACC does all its interrogation, erm, sorry, interviews on the ground in glass room complete with working CCTV system and manned 24 hours so that no interviewee could commit suicide in your premises again please? (Someone suggested that MACC’s officer might commit suicide during this investigation! LOL!).

Although I was on leave for the last two weeks, it did not also escape me that testimonies were given in Court that the former Menteri Besar of Selangor, Khir Toyo, bought a piece of land worth RM6.5 million for just RM3.5 million from a businessman who has businesses in Selangor and more particularly with Selangor state agencies. Those state agencies needless to say were answerable to Khir Toyo. I think he even held the position of Chairman of some of them.

Khir Toyo, according to later testimonies, paid a whopping RM6.5 million for renovation work on that property, turning the already huge mansion into a Balinese- styled mansion. If that was not enough to make us, ordinary Malaysians, choke in our own puke, he even paid that 6.5 million smakeroons in CASH!

Let us do some simple mathematics, shall we?

Khir Toyo was the MB of Selangor for 8 years. Assuming his income as an MB and as Chairman of the various state agencies was RM100000 a month, his total income for the whole 8 year tenure would be RM9.6 million.

Now, assuming he did not spend a single sen from that RM9.6 million to buy anything from his obedient wife or to buy some tempe which he admittedly consumed to preserve his youthful look, he would still be short of RM400000 to be able to pay for a total sum of RM10 million which he spent in acquiring the property and building the mansion.

This brings into question the collective wisdom of MACC in preferring a charge for fraudulently acquiring the land instead of for abuse of power against Khir Toyo. The former carries a maximum sentence of only 2 year imprisonment while the latter carries a much heftier sentence.

Perhaps MACC has its own reasons for doing as they did and we, the people, can only hope that the reasons are purely one of practicality and is grounded on legal basis rather than some political motivations or external factors. But one cannot escape to note that Anwar Ibrahim was previously charged for abuse of power for reasons much flimsier than the one in the Khir Toyo case.

It is in a situation such as this that public accountability is paramount. MACC suffers from an almost hallucinated state of belief that it is operating at a very standard and is, for all intent and purposes, above board, in particular, above political pressure. The public however does not suffer from such grandiose delusion. In 2011, the people demand accountability from public institutions, even more so from such an important institution which lies at the heart of proper governance.

It is in cases such as this that MACC’s action is open to scrutiny by the people who are increasingly aware of their rights. When there are actions which are smack of double standard, the public would be quick to judge. It is therefore MACC’s duty to account for its action.

Meanwhile, the police force is or appears to be a leviathan of some sorts.

Buried and tainted in a litany of unspeakable abuses of force and power, for which the force has not even attempted to own up, let alone unequivocally apologise, the police force is an institution which has lost almost all of its credibility in the eyes of the public.

From the time of Dr Mahathir, where the police force was used as a carriage donkey for whatever Machiavellian schemes which he set out to undertake (I may be insulting Machiavelli here), the police force has times and again failed to rise up above political patronisation and meet public expectations.

It has carried mattresses into Courts; provided dodgy DNA analysis and result as testimony; allegedly summarily executed hundreds of alleged criminals (for which there have been no more than flimsy denials that they were acting in self defence as an explanation); arrested people who were just carrying some candles by the streets and the lawyers who were going to see their clients.

The list goes on and on. In recent memory, we have the mysterious death of Kugan; the fatal shooting of a 14 year old boy, Aminurasyid and recently the killing of 3 young men which, according to the pathologist report, took place in seemingly “execution” fashion.

The most recent is the story of a bank manager who spent 3 days in a lock up for not wearing a seatbelt, as reported by Malaysiakini. Even if we take the police’s story as accurate and true, that the bank manager did say “Lu apa kuasa mahu ambil gua punya lesen dan IC?” to the police officer and that, in the mind of the police constituted an obstruction of a government officer from discharging his duties, what was the necessity to arrest and obtained a remand order to keep him in a lock up for 3 days?

What further investigations which were necessary for the police to undertake? If the bank manager had said that and the police had opined that that constituted an offence as alleged, couldn’t the police prepare an investigation paper there and then and pass it to the AG Chambers for further action. What was there to be investigated further which would warrant a 3 day lock up?

It was as clear as daylight (without the seasonal haze, of course) that the police’s action was unwarranted and is an abuse of power. It was the police force acting as complainant, investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner.

Again, like the MACC, the police force is an essential institution in the machination of governance in any state, modern or quasi-modern. Even during the Melaka Sultanate, the office of the Temenggong (equivalent to the office of the Inspector General of Police) was taken seriously by the none other than the Sultan himself. Sultan Allaudin Riayat Shah, for example, realising that crime rate was creeping up, took it upon himself to do the Temenggong’s job one night just to show that the Temenggong was more than a little slacking in his KPI rating.

It is thus paramount that the police force should rise up to the challenge and demands of the people – as opposed to the State’s – and start proving that it is an institution worthy of the trust and respect of the people which it so craves. There is no reward, in terms of trust and respect, for the police to so often beat its own chest and proclaim that it is the best there is; that it protects and serves to protect and that the crime rates have so decreased that it is not safe for an old woman to walk on the street with a handbag and a mobile phone at 11 at night.

It is in the action and in the accountability for such action that the police force is judged by the people. The numbers in the KPI do not count as far as the people are concerned. Nothing else would satisfy the insatiable cravings of the people for a police force which is trustworthy, efficient and dependable than a thorough cleaning up of the force; an above and across the board approach towards the performance of its functions; the proper usage of its powers and exercise of its jurisdiction as well as a more “human” communication skills.

Yesterday also saw a shocking news in the Singapore Straits Times about our immigration boys abusing 2 women from Singapore who were arrested for allegedly entering Malaysia illegally. This is the kind of moronic, if not Neanderthal-isque approach by our front-line agency, in so far as foreign visitors are concerned, which puts Malaysia firmly on the list of GagaLand.

How we seem to treat refugees and illegal immigrants seem to be the highlight of international concerns all this while. And to think that we are now desirous to enter into a people swapping agreement with Australia!

Elsewhere, we have news that Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Bashir of Sudan have been invited to an economic forum at Putrajaya. Who is the bright spark who actually invited these two international miscreants to Malaysia – to attend an economic forum at that? What can the participants of the forum learn from these two that they cannot learn from Daim Zainuddin or Mohd Nor Yaacob?

Mugabe has succeeded in transforming Zimbabwe into an iconic state in the annual award of Inflation magazine. Bashir, on the other hand, has a warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court hanging over his head. And yet we invited them to an economic forum in Putrajaya.

Of course Mugabe has been rumoured to be in Malaysia seeking medical attention in not so distant a past. He is a good acquaintance, if not friend, of Dr Mahathir.

Nothing could supersede that news, in terms of sheer shock and awe, than the evening revelation yesterday, that the Ministry of Tourism had spent a whopping RM1.8 million to build and launch an FB page, as reported by the Malaysian Insider.

50 million of people around the world spent only 5 minutes of their time, some electricity and broadband charges to open their FB account. I started this blog with nothing other than my two hand and two fingers and a bit of processing power left in my head after more than 20 years appearing in our Courts. And yes, our Ministry of Tourism spent ONE POINT EIGHT MILLION bucks to open an FB page.

If MACC could work overtime to investigate the alleged mis-usage of funds to the tune of several thousands ringgit by DAP – which led to Teoh Beng Hock’s death – I am sure MACC would display the same kind of enthusiasm in pursuing this utter crap.

The expenses could be well justified for all we know, but investigate we must.

Otherwise, we would continue to fail.

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