Sin Chew Daily
MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki has been accused of acquiring the shares of two companies in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Despite the fact the rumor has been circulating for some time, we have yet to hear him make a public clarification. Even MACC’s former consultation and corruption prevention panel member Prof Edmund Terence Gomez failed to get the panel to discuss this issue and had to resign in protest.
Finally the anti-corruption agency has spoken up, but still the truth remains obscured.
The agency’s anti-corruption advisory board chairman Abu Zahar Ujang has pointed out that the board held a special meeting on November 24 last year and summoned Azam Baki for explanation. In the meeting, Azam Baki told the advisory board it was not he himself who bought the shares but his younger brother Nasir Baki using his account to make the purchases, adding that all the shares were traded in the open market.
MACC’s advisory board was apparently happy with Azam Baki’s explanation, and felt there was no pecuniary interest nor conflict of interest in this whole thing.
Abu Zahar lightly handled this matter with no clarification of the truth, triggering even more doubts among the people. Meanwhile, Abu Zahar was also unhappy with what Edmund Gomez had done, and this has given the public an impression of bureaucracy omnipresent in government institutions.
It is unbecoming for the advisory board to make a rash conclusion from the one-sided story of Azam Baki without thoroughly investigating the case.
MACC has always been perceived as the last line of defense against corruption but unfortunately the way it handles the acquisition of shares by its chief commissioner has been extremely unprofessional. To prevent further loss of public confidence towards MACC, it is imperative that the anti-corruption advisory board expound how exactly it has come to the decision that there’s no wrongdoing on the part of Azam Baki.
On the request by some MPs and NGOs for the establishment of a royal commission of inquiry to probe Azam Baki’s role in this matter, Abu Zahar felt this whole thing had been resolved and there’s no need for any further action, although he said he would let PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob decide whether to take the next course of action.
Facts have to be established upon the law, and the advisory board has this obligation to submit a report to the prime minister who may instruct the attorney-general to set up a three-man special committee to investigate this matter.
This incident shows that indeed the advisory board has not yet completed its work. In other words, Abu Zahar must follow up instead of rushing to the conclusion that this whole thing is resolved.
Several NGOs and lawyers have explicitly stated that the advisory board’s opinion is not final because it is not legally binding in criminal investigation.
Moreover, this whole thing is not just about Azam Baki allowing his brother to use his account to buy the shares but also transferring the shares to his brother’s name later. As he is the chief commissioner of MACC and not just anyone else, the public have the right to demand that he explain what has actually taken place, the source of fund to acquire the shares and the need for doing so. It is absolutely necessary for the Securities Commission to also step in and investigate.
Azam Baki’s attitude whereby he believes he is innocent and claims he only needs to answer to the advisory board and no one else, shows that he has the intention of averting his responsibility and lacks transparency.
MACC is an agency established under the Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission Act and is under the supervision of the parliamentary select committee, a fact Azam Baki should know very well.
He has complained that the accusation might be a way for his enemies to tarnish his image and reputation, and vowed to take legal action against the slanderers.
While Azam Baki indeed has the right to defend his name, a more appropriate way of doing things is to cooperate in the investigation and let the law prove his innocence, not just to explain to the advisory board alone.
As the top leader of the country’s anti-corruption agency, Azam Baki should be courageous enough to face the music in a bid to restore public confidence towards the body he is leading.
There is this need for the MACC to demonstrate the highest standards in the investigation of any case and in dealing with the involvement of its senior officer in any act of misconduct which may jeopardize its own image. This is to allow the public to regain confidence in the agency so that it can perform its duties more effectively.
Additionally, PM Ismail Sabri must also view this incident seriously and immediately instruct the next course of action. The longer the delay, the more damage it will do to the reputation of MACC and the government.