Thursday 30 August 2012

NOW will cut both ways, Rafizi pledges

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 ― PKR’s “exposé man” Rafizi Ramli today pledged his National Oversight and Whistleblowers Centre (NOW) will be impartial towards whistleblowers from both sides of the political divide.

During the centre’s launch today, Rafizi admitted that his role as NOW’s executive director may render it difficult for the centre to shake off the perception that its functions are political in nature.

However, he gave his assurance today that the centre “will be (as) vicious to [Pakatan Rakyat] as to any other political organisation and parties”.

“But whistleblowers must come with documents to substantiate their claims. If they come with documents, even if it’s to incriminate PR leaders or even the Bar Council, we will investigate,” he said in his opening speech today here.

Rafizi also said the centre “transcends (the) political divide”, after disclosing a congratulatory message from Deputy Minister for Higher Education Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

“We need to raise public awareness on the important role of whistleblowers. In this context, we should also look at ways and means to implement the [Whistleblowers Protection Act] to the [fullest], and making sure that its goals will prevail should it be confronted with other laws and regulations or obstacles,” Saifuddin wrote in the e-mail that was shown to reporters today.

“We must all by truly committed and have the political will to carry out this duty,” he added.

Later, Rafizi reiterated that NOW has no political agenda, adding that he would do everything in his ability to ensure that no PR party ― PKR, PAS or DAP ― would use the centre as its own political tool to target leaders from Barisan Nasional (BN).

During today’s launch, the PKR strategy director explained the objectives of NOW included instituting public-driven oversight functions in the society, raising public awareness on issues relating to governance and accountability, as well as to protect and defend whistleblowers.

Meanwhile, Bar Council Treasurer Steven Thiru spoke of the legal aspects and UIA lecturer Maszlee Malik explained about whistleblowing from the Islamic perspective.

Rafizi had told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that NOW will be a “civil society alternative” to government authorities like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the police, whose reputations have been marred by numerous reports of custodial deaths as well as assault and intimidation by armed officers.

He explained that the centre will prepare a step-by-step process for whistleblowing, which will include offering advice to informants on the legal risks they may face with their disclosures should they agree to proceed.

NOW currently has a four-member team including Rafizi and is expected to commence interviews for volunteers soon, shortly after its launch today.

The NOW Centre is believed to be the first of its kind in southeast Asia.

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