Thursday 21 July 2011

RCI wants MACC powers curbed to stem abuse, corruption

July 21, 2011
Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz holds up two copies of the report at Parliament today July 21 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — Selangor anti-graft officers flaunted “heady arrogance of power” over the Teoh Beng Hock case, said the royal panel investigating the death and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)’s role it in.

The five-man panel said this concentration of investigative and prosecution powers in the chief commissioner was “anathematic” in a democracy and could lead to abuses of power and corruption, and strongly urged the law be amended to check the anti-graft body’s extensive powers.
“Opportunities for abuses of power are rife in the MACC Act,” the commission led by Federal Court judge Tan Sri James Foong said in its report today.

It said it had been exposed to blatant abuses of power by the Selangor MACC even as it was conducting its inquiry earlier this year, noting that “heady arrogance of power came into clear display when TBH and other witnesses were under investigation by the MACC officers.”

“The testimony of MACC officers such as Arman, HH and Hairul Ilham is demonstrative of the fact that there is a strong sense of arrogance amongst the Selangor MACC officers who testified under the belief [in our view, mistakenly] that they were not accountable to anyone in the exercise of their powers,” it said.
“We propose that the law be amended to prevent further abuses and misinterpretation of the law and to afford protection to witnesses and suspects against human-rights abuses as well as to take a more balance approach in the fight against corruption,” it said.

The royal panel said that under the existing MACC Act, a senior MACC officer had the same powers as a public prosecutor and a policeman, which was dangerous as the graftbuster could then investigate and charge a person for the offence in court.

“There must be a proper system of checks and balances to prevent any abuse of powers,” it said.
The RCI had earlier found that anti-graft officers in Selangor viewed witnesses and suspects as “the enemy” and were brutal in their interview techniques and had formed a “blue wall of silence” to “cover up the nefarious activities that took place on the 15th and 16th” of July 2009 when Teoh was taken and intensively questioned at the Selangor MACC’s then-headquarters.

It had also labelled three senior graft investigators it referred to as “Arman the bully, Ashraf the abuser and HH the arrogant leader” who had no qualms in violating basic human rights to extract information supporting their cases and concluded that most MACC officers in its Selangor office were prone to lying.
It noted that the Selangor MACC’s operation to obtain evidence to support its corruption case had led to the death of, whom it described in the report as “a young man in the prime of life who had everything to look forward to’ and whose family had been “robbed” of a son, brother, husband and father.

The Foong Commission said the “the weaknesses identified at Selangor needs to be addressed across the whole of the MACC, to a greater or lesser degree... to regain the confidence of the public.”

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