Thursday, July 23, 2009


By Tunku Abdul Aziz

JULY 23 — The death, while under the care of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, in mysterious circumstances of Teoh Beng Hock last week promises to weaken further the already fragile public confidence in the government and its agencies in our country.

Regaining public confidence will not be a walk in the park for the government given its abysmal record of dealing with deaths in police custody. The government should never have adopted such a patently careless and cavalier attitude when dealing with matters of public concerns. The loss of trust in the government and its agencies is extremely unfortunate because by doing the “right thing” they could have earned and retained our respect, confidence and gratitude.

The initial handling of the Beng Hock “death in custody” case by the MACC could hardly be described as professional and this has fuelled a million and one speculations. All this is extremely unfortunate, but understandable. People simply do not trust the very organisations that are supposed to protect them anymore and, for many, the suspicion they harbour is based on their bitter personal experience of official encounters with the country’s enforcement agencies. Can the government fairly blame the people for feeling angry and resentful with the way the police, and now the MACC, apparently conduct their work?

I have never hidden my true feelings about the MACC. I have been critical of this organisation which, a few months ago, I described in my weekly Sin Chew column, as OLD WINE IN A NEW BOTTLE. I wrote in my opening paragraph:

“What a waste of public funds! The creation of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will go down in history as a feeble and pathetic final clutch at the straws by a sitting duck prime minister best remembered for his inexhaustible supply of good intentions but with nothing to show for them. The MACC was hastily conceived against a murky background of a web of duplicity and deceit. It was a desperate attempt at deluding the people of this country and the world anti-corruption community that the Abdullah Badawi administration still had a lot of fire in its belly to make corruption a high risk and low return business. The whole process was nothing more than a charade, a sleight of hand that we have come to expect from this government. In the meantime corruption continues to be in robust good health.”

I also touched on the much hyped “Hong Kong model” upon which the new corruption fighting machine is apparently based — the less said the better about this. It is clear for all to see that the MACC falls far short of the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption’s template on at least two counts. The first and most obvious short coming is an absence of a legal provision that will allow a MACC officer to call anyone to account for his wealth and lifestyle that are obviously beyond his known legal income. There is the anti-laundering provision, but this is not the same.

The second is its much touted independence. The MACC is NOT independent. No one believes it is independent because its leadership has allowed it to become a political instrument that is seen by the people to work to the Barisan Nasional agenda. This is because we are manning the MACC with the self-same functionaries who developed second guessing into a fine art form under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s special guidance. They cannot reasonably be expected to change their work practices which have become almost second nature to them.

I should feel happy because I have been totally vindicated by the recent events but I cannot, in all conscience, bring myself to rejoice amidst a great human tragedy, the totally unexpected death of Teoh Beng Hock, a young loyal Malaysian of great promise who believed passionately in change for a better, safer Malaysia.

If the government wants to retain its legitimacy to govern, it must rededicate itself to the principles of international best practices predicated on justice for all, transparency and accountability in the conduct of the affairs of state. It must clean out its unsavoury stables of corruption because it is corruption that has reduced this country to its present sorry state. As for the MACC, in its present form it is of no use to either man or beast.

Pakatan Rakyat leaders at Teoh Beng Hock's funeral on 20 July 2009

Its senior officers have to accept full responsibility for what has gone so horribly wrong so soon after its establishment. Seriously, they should get on their bicycles in full ceremonial uniform dripping with gold plated buttons and other bits and pieces and ride off into the sunset of shame and degradation.

[Teoh Beng Hock, right, had a promising career in politics and, at 30, was looking forward to beiing a young father and husband. Pic from his Facebook album]