Sunday, 5 August 2012
Sarawak bank union chief backs Rafizi
The head of the Sarawak Bank Employees Union (SBEU) has urged the government to review its decision to charge PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli and bank clerk Johari Mohamad with breaching banking secrecy laws.
In a letter to Malaysiakini, SBEU chief executive officer Andrew Lo said the federal government should consider the wider implications of charging the two, and that it may discourage future whistleblowers.
Lo said the disclosure by Rafizi, which resulted in the charge, had led to National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) head Mohamad Salleh Ismail being charged with several offences and it was not for personal gain.
“So it is safe to say that the disclosure is not a witchhunt, a mischievous attempt to defame anyone, and neither is it a publicity stunt.
“If the disclosure is for self-financial gain or used to extract unfair commercial or business advantage, prosecute the wrongdoer by all means,” he said.
Lo said that currently, even the “ultra secretive” Swiss banking system has now acknowledged that banking secrecy should not be used to shield tax evasion, money-laundering or ill-gotten gains.
“And I don’t think we want the corrupt to put money into the Malaysian financial system,” he said, adding that the charge against the two were akin to the proverbial “shooting the messenger”.
On Aug 1, Rafizi and Johari were both charged under the Section 97 of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989 (Bafia), with having disclosed the financial accounts held by Public Bank to the media.
The accounts were identified as the customer profiles of NFC, Meatworks and Livestocks Sdn Bhd, Agroscience Sdn Bhd and Mohd Salleh.
If convicted, they face a fail term of up to three years or a fine of not more than RM3 million.
‘Public interest comes first’
On Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s defence of the charge against Rafizi, Lo said the premier was right to say that the two should have reported the matter to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
However, Lo said MACC’s track record does not inspire confidence.
“MACC has been known to drag its feet. It would be safe to say that the publicity generated by Rafizi’s expose may be one reason that MACC has been very quick to charge Salleh (left) ,” he said.
Lo added that a key factor in fighting corruption was to protect the whistleblowers, and prosecuting bona fide whistleblowers would send the wrong message.
While the attorney-general has the unfettered discretion whether to charge Rafizi, said Lo, he should consider whether public interest is at stake.
“Let say that, in trying to help the police to catch a murderer, I drove my car in excess of the speed limit to give chase, and succeeded in apprehending the murderer.
“Should I be charged with speeding? Legally, I may have broken the law,” he asked.