By The Nut Graph team
Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has come under considerable flak this past week, most severely with the death of Selangor state government aide Teoh Beng Hock. On 16 July 2009, Teoh was discovered dead on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, after a gruelling interrogation lasting more than 10 hours until 3.45am at the Selangor MACC premises.
How did his death occur? This is still unknown, though police are not ruling out foul play. While theories as to the cause of Teoh's death abound, it is perhaps prudent not to jump to conclusions, but remain focused on a solid principle: the MACC's lack of procedural parameters or its non-adherence to standard operating procedures, should they exist.
Why was there not greater security at the MACC's office? Why was the welfare of those under the commission's custody treated in such a cavalier way, to the extent that a death occurred under its watch?
Is the MACC empowered to conduct interrogations — whether with witnesses or suspects — way past 3am, and for such a long duration? Even in police lockups, there is the 6am-to-6pm rule, the stipulated timeframe for suspects to be questioned.
What about the allegations made by Kajang municipal councillor Tan Boon Wah, who had also been interrogated by the anti-graft agency? On 17 July, Tan revealed that investigating MACC officers forced him to stand for four hours, threatened to "take away my wife", and called him "Cina bodoh".
It should be remembered that Tan's claim is not the first time the MACC has been accused of thuggery. In a joint statement calling for a royal commission of inquiry into the "first political death under (Prime Minister) Datuk Seri Najib Razak", civil society groups pointed out the case of Maran Umno committee member Halimi Kamaruzzaman.
Halimi had alleged that he was roughed up and forced to strip by MACC officers, in an investigation targeting Federal Territory Umno chief Datuk Mohamad Norza Zakaria.
The corruption inquest into Norza — as with the investigation into Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong, whom Teoh was an aide to — is widely believed to have been politically motivated. While the anti-graft commission has opened 533 investigations since January 2009, it is difficult for the MACC to shrug off accusations that it is partial to certain quarters of the political divide.
(Pic by tm-tm @ Flickr) One need only look back to its speedy, almost self-satirising investigation into Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim's cows and cars. Contrast that to the commission's failure to act into obviously suspicious circumstances, such as those of former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo's palatial mansion in Shah Alam. Or its sluggish look into the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal.
The MACC was part of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's tripartite package of reforms, with the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC).
Like its two fellow agencies, the MACC was already under fire even while it was still a bill in Parliament. Most described the bill as weak, since it did not guarantee the commission's independence. Rushed through in a mere two days, the MACC Act 2008 places the anti-corruption body squarely under the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General, instead of Parliament itself which many feel would ensure the MACC's impartiality.
In February 2009, a Merdeka Center poll found that only 43% of 1,018 Malaysians surveyed thought that the MACC would be an effective tool in the fight against corruption. Recent events appear to have vindicated the 57% of Malaysians who thought otherwise.
With all this said, what do you think? Here are some of our attempts at summing up the MACC:
MACC procedures need checks and balances.
MACC needs to regain public confidence.
Eradicate real corruption, power abuse, malpractice.
And now, we must fear MACC.
Eh, boleh disoalsiasat sampai 3.45 pagi?
How can we trust government institutions?
What are your interrogation procedures, MACC?
Interrogation till 03:45 is undoubtedly torture.
Keraguan rakyat memuncak dengan kematian Teoh.
Unshakable evidence is of utmost importance.
BN + MACC = Skeptical rakyat.
Investigate, don't persecute. Question, don't torture.
Little Napoleons get away with anything!
"Kalau sayang bini, ikut cakap kami."
Follow due process. Rakyat will trust.
Prosecute selectively. And then cry wolf?
Wow! This settee is really comfy!