Wednesday 1 August 2012

Rafizi Ramli's Prosecution is a National Embarrassment

The decision to charge PKR leader Rafizi Ramli for disclosing four financial accounts related to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) and its chairperson Mohd Salleh Ismail is putting the entire value system of the nation at test.

He claimed trial to the charge, under Section 97 of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (Bafia), of having disclosed the financial accounts held by Public Bank to two reporters, one of them Erle Martin Carvalhoe of Star.

Bank Negara started investigations after Mohd Salleh’s police report against Rafizi for 21 alleged breaches of private and confidential banking details that are protected under Part XIII of Bafia on secrecy and information.

Mohamad Salleh himself has been charged with two counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and two alleged offences under the Companies Act 1965 involving a total of RM49.7 million, related to the purchase of two luxury condominium units.

What kind of message does Bank Negara intend to send to the people? Rafizi had taken great risk to disclose crucial and incriminating financial information related to criminal breach of trust.  

The Rafizi expose has helped to safe the country from another attempt to plunder public funds for self enrichment. It is without a doubt that Rafizi could have been fed the information by an insider. Nevertheless, the last thing the authority should do it to charge him breaches of private and confidential banking details.

National Feedlot Corporation was a beneficiary of public grant. As a recipient of RM250 million of low interest loan, the NFC should be subjected to the strictest scrutiny. A lack of check-and-balance mechanism had resulted in billions being wasted or siphoned off each year. The fact that the government did not act on the AG's warning earlier is a prime example of poor governance. It merely strengthens the need for responsible whistleblowers like Rafizi Ramli.

The NFC scandal had tainted UMNO Women Chief Sharizat Jalil and prompted her removal from the cabinet. But the treatment she received from the UMNO led government is starkly different from the treatment received by the whistleblower Rafizi. He was prosecuted mainly because of his political affiliation.

The federal government must not underestimate the Malaysians and their ability to separate the wrongs and the rights.

Rafizi's prosecution is going have a bigger impact than the defections of two Sabah BN leaders on voters. 

It is time for the federal government to start waking up to its many weaknesses and abuses of power. Top officials in Bank Negara should do a deep soul searching too. Professionalism must be practiced within a good value system.

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