Friday, March 18, 2011

Do a ‘WikiLeaks’ on Taib, public urged

KUALA LUMPUR: Anti-graft watchdog Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) today urged the public to whistleblow on Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, who has been accused of numerous allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
TI-M president Paul Low called on the authorities to investigate Taib and ensure that full protection and assistance are given to whistleblowers and witnesses.
“Anyone, even foreigners, can come forward with evidence that can help. Yes, even those who are working in companies allegedly linked to Taib. They can be just like WikiLeaks,” Low told FMT today.
Earlier, at a press conference here, Low said the public could hand over documents secretly to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or call up to seek its advice.

“I believe the MACC under Abu Kassim Mohamed can be trusted,” Low said, adding that he believed MACC has improved with a new team and structure despite public cynicism.
Low also said that a whistleblower’s identity should be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which came into force on Dec 15 last year.
However, he cautiuoned that if anyone wants to be a whistleblower, he might want to reconsider going to the media as that might jeopardise the investigators’ work.
A global anti-Taib campaign is currently taking place and protests have been held in UK, Canada, and US.
The protests, with more being planned, were held after Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund revealed that Taib and his family’s wealth is directly linked to 49 companies in eight countries around the world.
The companies are estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of US dollars.
“I think it’s only proper that investigations be carried out to clear the air on how the wealth was amassed,” Low said, adding that TI-M was not accusing Taib of anything.
Strong political will
Low said the MACC should act immediately as “the serious allegations of extraordinary corruption and abuse of power” against Taib, his friends and family as well as members of his Cabinet and business associates are “affecting the nation’s credibility”.
He added that TI-M was bringing up the issue now as it was “very concerned with the massive amount of wealth that Taib and his family has gained”.
“We view with grave concern about what is happening in Sarawak. We feel that as a NGO that fights corruption, we need to appeal to the authorities to investigate these online allegations immediately without fear or favour,” Low said.
He denied that the timing of the press conference was related to the upcoming state election, saying that TI-M was apolitical.
“We’re bringing this up because though these allegations have surfaced for some years, now the people are coming out with precise and clear details as well as information on the allegations,” he said, referring to documents that have been published online, especially in http://www.sarawakreport.org/ which has specifically named certain companies allegedly linked to Taib.
Low said that it was up to the enforcement agencies – including the police, Bank Negara and the Securities Commission of Malaysia – to clear Malaysia’s name as reports of Taib’s alleged misdeeds have been cropping up more frequently.
“The enforcement agencies must act promptly to counter the public’s cynicism of selective investigation or non-investigation and selective prosecution or non-prosecution, especially involving a ‘big fish’,” he said.
Low said that the public should be kept informed of the status of investigations of such cases to uphold transparency and build confidence and credibility.
“Our definition of corruption is not only confined to bribery but also covers abuse of power for personal gains.”
He said that if investigations have established a “good case”, then the Attorney-General should “go ahead and prosecute”.
But he added that strong political will was needed when faced with cases involving “big fish”.
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