Thursday, February 26, 2009

Press Release: Harassment must cease

Picked from Malaysian Bar Website

There are countries around the world where the Rule of Law means little. In these countries, institutions that are meant to serve the interests of the public are instead tools of the Government.  Those that have views opposing those in power are harassed and harangued in order to wear them out or silence them.  The democratic systems in these countries are constantly under attack or subjected to manipulations by those in power.  The governments in these nations betray their citizens who value democracy and the Rule of Law.
In Malaysia we have pledged to uphold the Constitution and to respect the Rule of Law.  We must all abide by this.
When launching the MACC two days ago, the Prime Minister gave the sobering advice that the MACC must not end up with the same perceptions that afflicted the ACA - of not being independent, of being a toothless tiger, of practising selective enforcement and of not being professional in their investigations, all of which damaged the ACA's reputation and credibility.
Yet a few days before that, the MACC director, in an unusual move, had made a public statement about investigations against the Menteri Besar (MB) of Selangor in a way that raises serious questions about the impartiality of the Commission.  Then, yesterday, the MACC reportedly interrogated the Speaker of the Perak Legislative Assembly for three hours.  The day before that, the police had interrogated him for a few hours.
These events give rise to two concerns.  One is of the harassment of the Speaker and an interference with his duties, and the other is that there is an unusual haste and publicity in relation to the MB's case when far more serious reports against others appear to have been put aside.
How then is the MACC seeking to remove the negative perceptions the Prime Minister spoke of?  These events also cause to question what regard the authorities really have for the interests of the public and the public perception.
The public are ever watchful of what is unfolding before them.  They know what is happening.  They do not wish to see our institutions undermined.  They want our institutions to be impartial, independent, courageous and respected.  They know that the Rule of Law is vital and that democratic institutions must be strong.   The public must never be underestimated in their appreciation of these issues.
Respected members of the Bar have been appointed to the MACC's Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Operations Review Panel and Complaints Committee.  We urge them, as members of the Bar, to immediately and urgently take steps to address the concerns that have been expressed in relation to the MACC's actions and to play their role in ensuring that the Rule of Law is upheld at all times. 
We must ensure that we do not go down the path of becoming a nation that is looked upon as one which has little regard for the Rule of Law.   For we all know that if that happens it will be very difficult to turn back.
Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar
26 February 2009 

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