We can see clearly that the Government is getting worried about the views of Malaysian voters on the highly suspicious death of Teoh Beng Hock.
However, the announcement by the Prime Minister of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) with limited terms of reference and the convening of a coroner’s inquest is, in my opinion, still not sufficient to address the many worries and concerns that the ordinary citizen has, especially with regard to the MACC’s independence and integrity.
Various options have been put out by civil society leaders on how to correct the fundamental weaknesses of the MACC, including a radical proposal that the advisory members of the MACC resign en masse. This is to show to Malaysians that advisory members take responsibility for the death and to send a strong signal to the Government that they are not willing to be party to the wrongful conduct of a disreputable and untrustworthy organization.
The proposal by Dr Lim Teck Ghee that the MACC advisory members resign en bloc seems to be based on the principle of civil disobedience and moral protest which has a tradition in some countries but not, apparently, in Malaysia. In the blogs and websites, we can read that the great majority of readers agree with Dr Lim’s proposal.
According to this majority view, these resignations would also convey a powerful message to the government and the public that these MACC panellists are not prepared to be used as a cat’s paw in political machinations aimed at preserving power by all possible means – especially when it leads to the death of an innocent young man.
I have observed that the few members of the advisory bodies who have spoken out in public on the tragic event have maintained that they still have an important and continuing role to play in reforming the MACC.
In my view, the distinguished members cannot avoid taking a proactive stance in light of the broad swathe of negative public reaction. It is salient to note that the public harbour expectations that these members – as public watchdogs – have a duty to take steps independent of the Government’s stance.
All Malaysians will agree that with high status comes great responsibility and hence it is incumbent on the advisory members to act promptly and vigorously. Failure on their part to take the initiative will be construed as an act of subservience to the Government and impact on their integrity and good standing in the public eye.
In a worst case interpretation, the public at large will conclude that this unwillingness of the MACC advisory members to act is symptomatic of an acceptance of what is perceived as an attempt at cover up and protection of the MACC.
To help the advisory members out of their dilemma, and recognizing that they (as with all of us) do have limits to their patience, I have prepared a list of deliverables or in the popular parlance – KPIs, which are badly needed. For the uninitiated, KPIs refer to key performance indicators. These are goals with target dates that organizations set for themselves so as to reflect the success or failure of the organization.
We have been reading a great deal in the newspapers of the way in which KPIs are being used to assess and track the progress of Prime Minister Najib’s administration. Hence this proposal should be perfectly appropriate for the MACC advisory members to adopt.
Implementing the suggested KPIs below will help convince me and many other members of the public that the advisory members are not warming their council seats solely due to self-interest.
KPIs for MACC Advisors:
1. Seek a suspension from duty of the key officers of the Selangor office as well as the national level office that sanctioned the investigation of the case against Ean Yong (Beng Hock’s boss) and his staff.
2. Ensure that no interrogation of witnesses or suspects be permitted by the MACC without a lawyer being present.
3. Ensure that no interrogation be permitted outside of working hours (8am to 5pm) to hinder the use of sleep deprivation which is a form of torture.
4. Ensure that all interrogations be videotaped (a practice common in most developed countries).
5. Ensure that investigations are initiated on the basis of trustworthy information that is not politically tainted or motivated.
6. Review the use by MACC and related law enforcement agencies of ethnicity as a factor in conducting stops, searches and other investigative procedures.
7. Establish clear parameters for MACC investigation of cases (individuals or organizations) so that the MACC does not concentrate its investigations on ikan bilis or political opponents of the ruling system solely but goes instead after the ikan jerung or sharks/powerfully connected who have clearly amassed wealth/assets/resources through dubious means or have engaged in big-time corruption affecting national interests.
All these KPIs are urgently needed because for now, there is very widespread public perception that the MACC is acting as a shield to protect the hingh ranking corrupt elite whilst at the same time engaging in destabilization of the opposition.
Besides this list above, I am sure that the advisory members will have their own list of proposed reforms of the MACC, drawing on their hard work since their appointment as members and especially following the traumatic events of the last week.
Members of the public will also have many useful KPI suggestions for the MACC advisory members to consider and perhaps a telephone hotline can be manned for the duration of a week to record public feedback.
Finally, it is not clear how the RCI to be established can play an important role in determining the reform measures needed to ensure that the MACC does not function as a rogue institution. It is absolutely critical that the RCI has relevant terms of reference and the best possible membership to ensure that it is not compromised even before it begins its work.
I realize and appreciate that the advisory members have close links to the Government which provides them with the opportunity to help influence the setting up of a credible and effective RCI. Hopefully, this commission can bring about the reform of the MACC which all previous efforts seem not to be able to do so.
Finally, we should all recognize that the tragedy of Beng Hock’s death has far-reaching implications for the nation as a whole.
Each and every one of us must help to put right what is wrong. The distinguished advisory members are uniquely placed to play a vital role and I respectfully suggest that they show some accountability.