By Khoo Kay Peng
The high court has made an important verdict:
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) has no right to question witnesses in an investigation beyond normal office hours, namely from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
Judicial Commissioner (JC) Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof stressed that the meaning of the phrase “day to day” as laid down in Section 30(3)(a) of the MACC Act – which is at the core of the dispute between Tan and the MACC – “cannot mean round the clock” investigation, which includes recording statements from the witness.
Mohamad Ariff explained that to do so would “offend the legislative purpose” and limit the fundamental liberties of a person, which are clearly laid down in the Federal Constitution, under Article 5, and which the Federal Court had recently upheld must be interpreted in the “widest sense” possible.
Asked to comment on the impact the High Court’s decision in relation to the dead political secretary, Karpal said: “In the case of Teoh Beng Hock, death was involved. The MACC has to be sued in a wider range and not limited to just the questioning.”
Yes, the MACC must be held responsible for a breach of its own investigative procedures. This ruling is not only significant for future suspects and witnesses but it is also a wake up call for other government agencies, departments and institutions which have been operating without observing proper procedures.
Just days ago, I went a department of a federal ministry to assist a client. I was shocked to find out that officers in the department do not even have a simple guideline and policy to deal with common requests and applications. The result is a lengthy wait for a simple response from the department.
I would like to advice the government to focus on real issues and weaknesses instead of wasting much of its efforts on PR spins and wasteful slogans and advertisements.
Back to the MACC, Lim Kit Siang lamented that political aide Teoh Beng Hock would still be alive if the MACC had followed the law. It is difficult to disagree with Lim.
I would like to urge MACC chief commissioner Ahmad Said Hamdan to suspend the officers involved in the Teoh’s case and call an immediate internal investigation on the breach of conduct. Top officers in MACC who insisted that their officers can conduct investigation and interrogation beyond officer hours and round-the-clock should be send back for retraining or demoted.
It is time to focus on real issues, cut the crap slogans, PR spins and ceremonies. Something is not right in Malaysia.