Monday, February 2, 2009

MACC may arrest others but not UMNO members?

-A commentary-

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — About 30 members of the Youth and Putera wings of Umno tonight handed a memorandum of protest to the party leadership on the intervention by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in party matters. [The Malaysian Insider, 29/1/09]


The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) recently began a series of cleansing in UMNO by arresting and charging several key party members for corruption. Reports of vote-buying amongst candidates for party posts sent to the MACC expectantly intensified as the party prepares for its polls this March.

While this latest display of decisiveness by the MACC is none other than a fulfilment of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's long-awaited promise for reform and zero-tolerance on corruption, there are still certain quarters of the UMNO hegemony who did not seem all too happy about the fold of events.

On January 29, it was reported that members of the Youth and Putera wings of UMNO protested against the MACC by handing over a memorandum to Badawi, condemning the commission's intervention of the party's internal affairs. The group gathered at the main entrance to Menara Datuk Onn, the building where UMNO leaders were scheduled to hold a supreme council meeting to voice their discontentment.

The protesters held up placards that read “The Disciplinary Board is senile,” “Don’t take away our rights” and “We reject the MACC, butt out!” and further criticised the chairman of the UMNO Diciplinary Board, Tan Sri Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail's suggestion that the party’s wings be dissolved to curb money politics.

“The formation of the MACC is not to beat suspects when questioning them. Thirty-nine people have been called up for questioning, the number of those remanded is uncertain but two or three people have lodged police reports. We have proof of the incidents through a copy of the police report lodged by a party member which is attached to the memorandum,” the spokesperson for the group, Zuraidi Abdul Rahim told reporters. [The Malaysian Insider, 29/1/09]
But how MACC officers perform their duties is beside the point. The main question is: Are UMNO members untouchable, even if they are suspected for graft?

The main task of the MACC is to, of course, curb corruption. And it is not rocket science to know that money politics is a form of corruption.

The group representing UMNO Youth and Putera are rejecting the MACC for intervening in party matters. However, claims of money politics is not an 'internal party matter' but rather, an issue the MACC has an obligation to investigate and hold those responsible. The group has, indeed, no right to dictate what the commission can or cannot do to perform its duty to eradicate corruption. In other words, UMNO members are not demi-gods to be spared from the rule of law.

On August 12, 2007, the Prime Minister said, in relation to a separate matter, that the MACC (then called the Anti-Corruption Agency) is allowed to investigate cases involving money politics in UMNO. And again in January 23 this year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that the MACC is free to conduct its own investigations into claims of money politics among UMNO members.

Nonetheless, the MACC Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan remains defiant that his organisation will continue to uphold it's mandate to curb corruption. He even declared that "the MACC is going after vote-buying in UMNO, whether the party likes it or not", as to the MACC, "money politics simply means corruption". He has it spot on!

"We will conduct our own investigations even if the disciplinary board is looking into the case. Never mind if the investigations overlap, we will still have to be there," the MACC Chief Commissioner told reporters. [NST, 30/1/09]
This would be the commission's ultimate test to prove it's independence and autonomy in carrying out their responsibilities bestowed upon them through the MACC Act by the Parliament last month.

As for the protesters, to reject the MACC simply because its officers had allegedly beaten up detained UMNO members during interrogation is a joke. Taking the recent controversy of alleged police brutality on car thief suspect Kugan Ananthan who died in custody as an example, no one was foolish enough to suggest that the Royal Malaysian Police be abolished. But rather, the public are calling for reforms and tighter policies for the police force.

Likewise, the protesters have to do better than just looking for an excuse to condemn and reject the MACC based on statistics of 'beaten up' party members. If so, with the number of unsolved crimes in the country, should we also reject the entire idea of a police force too? Of course not!

If they have a problem with the harsh tactics of MACC officers, then they should demand an inquiry as a separate matter and take it to court.

The group representing the UMNO Youth and Putera condemns the MACC's investigation into claims of money politics which they feel it is an internal affair. The Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar once said "no one is above the law" to two deputy ministers accused of accompanying an unruly crowd recently. So, having said that, are UMNO members untouchable by the MACC?

The answer is simple. Ask Syed Hamid, an UMNO man himself.



Note: First image courtesy of Malaysiakini

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