Thursday 2 August 2012

Centre to protect and groom whistleblowers

Charged yesterday with contravening banking laws in the National Feedlot Centre expose, PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli today announced the formation of a centre to train and protect others who may find themselves in the same position.

NONEHe said the National Oversight and Whistleblowers Centre which will be officially launched on Aug 30, will among others, administer a whistleblower protection fund to cover the welfare and legal expenses of whistleblowers.

"We will also conduct awareness campaigns to encourage more whistleblowers to come forward and train more activists with analytical skills to conduct exposes," he told reporters today.
 He said that the centre will be funded through donations, grants and subscriptions. 

“In the US and Europe, companies subscribe to an oversight body to ensure transparency in the industry,” he said. 

He added that he has been working on the project for more than a month now and planned to launch it in line with the National Day celebrations, but his being charged has “ruined the timeline”. 

“The first concern yesterday was that... it will spook whistleblowers, sending a lot of wrong signals and turning the clock back in terms of encouraging people to come forward. 

“And every now and then people take risks to come forward. It’s about time the country has a proper and continuous monitoring body,” he said. 

‘The real patriots’

He said that patriots are “not those who sing (National Day theme song) Janji Ditepati” but those who risk their livelihoods and personal safety to leak information for the public interest. 

He added that he also hopes that with this centre, people will be encouraged to come forward and that he will “no longer need to meet people (who leak information) beside drains and behind buildings”. 

He said that he is personally running the centre now and is using his personal funds to sustain it, but urges civil society to join hands with him, especially to eliminate perception of conflict of interest due to his ties with Pakatan Rakyat. 

The centre is also seeking public donations for the whisleblowers protection fund. 

“We are confident among ourselves that we can play the role beyond partisan lines... It is also important... to have something like this as a warning to state governments in Pakatan that we are monitoring them as well. 

“The proof (of our independence) will be in the oversight function the centre will carry out. The onus is on us to remain credible,” he said. 

Clarifying Selangor MB Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s announcement that the state will pay for his legal fees, Rafizi said the money is from a fund set up to combat corruption. 

“The state considers whistleblowing as part and parcel of combating corruption. Most consider (former bank clerk) Johari Mohamad and myself whistleblowers, so we are entitled to apply for the fund.

“However, I do prefer that it is directed to the whistleblower protection fund rather than to individuals as people can then say that I got it because I’m a PKR person. 

“Hopefully we quality and that we can be considered for the fund,” he said. 

Meanwhile, PKR’s Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said that Pakatan hopes to push through an amendment to the Whistleblowers Act to allow protection even to those who go to the media. 

She said that many end up going to the media as a last resort when they feel the authorities have not taken heed of their reports. 

Also at the press conference was Pantai Jerejak assemblyperson Sim Tze Tsin. 

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