MACC must stop victimising Dr Pornthip

On the first day of last year, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission opened its doors claiming to be as a newly revitalized body, re-empowered and carefully modeled after Hong Kong’s ICAC.

By Wong Choon Mei (Harakah Daily)

But sadly, it ended 2009 under a cloud, embarrassed and disgraced by the suspicious death of a political aide to an opposition leader.

Now 12 months after its much-publicized makeover and despite a new head Abdul Kassim Mohamed at the helm, public scorn, distrust and disgust still follow in its wake.

Nothing has changed or nor can the MACC ever change. This is the perception still widely held by Malaysians and it is hardly unfair given the commission’s horrendous track record. And if Prime Minister Najib Razak is not careful, distaste for the nation’s graft buster will fester even more and may even spill beyond local shores.

On the first day of 2010, two MACC officers lodged police reports against opposition newspaper Suara Keadilan and Thai forensic expert Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand (pic) over the alleged murder of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock.

“Certainly it is not a good way to start the year. Already people shudder at the mention of the MACC. Oh my God! More selective prosecution! What’s new at the MACC? Nothing has changed. Such is the perception,” Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, PAS central working committee member told Harakahdaily.

“And it certainly doesn’t do the MACC or Malaysia any good to victimize Dr Pornthip. She is a foreign expert witness who like any other witness must be free from any form of duress or undue influence.“

MACC’s bad reputation will harm the country

According to MACC officer Hisham Mohd Yusoff, he lodged the report against opposition paper because “I feel that what was circulated is subjudice and contrary to the ongoing inquest (into Teoh’s death)”.

Whereas his colleague Raub Ghani reported against Dr Pornthip because he suspected that she had leaked information from her autopsy report to “unauthorised people” and that “every action of Dr Pornthip was contrary to the court’s decision and would further undermine the MACC’s image.”

“It is as though the MACC doesn’t want people to talk about Teoh, they want people to forget about the case,” Abdullah Karim, PAS Youth exco member, who is also a lawyer, told Harakahdaily.

“I don’t understand the logic behind the police report against Dr Pornthip. There is nothing wrong in her giving her opinion. It is based on evidence put before her during the second autopsy. Furthermore, how can the MACC jump to the conclusion that the source who tipped off the newspaper was her? It could be secondary information and thus unfair to her. We must bear in mind she is a specialist, who is respected regionally. It would certainly harm our country’s reputation if the MACC is seen to be going all out to harass and gag her.”

Conspiracies and shielding each other

On Tuesday, Suara Keadilan had quoted unnamed sources as saying that Dr Pornthip had submitted her report to the authorities, including the Teoh family, on a second post mortem conducted in November. According to these sources, the Thai forensic specialist had gathered enough evidence to adduce that Teoh was a victim of foul play.

Teoh’s body was found on July 16 on the fifth floor podium of Plaza Masalam, the building where the MACC office is sited on the 14th and 15th floors. It was also the day the 30-year old former journalist was due to get married and both he and his pregnant fiancée were looking forward to the birth of their first child.

This is why his family was sure he had been killed although the MACC and two government pathologists have claimed it was suicide. Teoh had been called in for questioning by the MACC on July 15 over alleged misuse of state funds by his boss, Selangor councillor and DAP assemblyman for Seri Kembangan Ean Yong Hian Wah.

“If it is subjudice for Suara Keadilan to write the report, then it is also subjudice for the MACC to raise the matter against Dr Pornthip. What’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander,” Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the MACC advisory panel for prevention and consultation, told Harakahdaily.

Ramon, a former top civil servant and past president of Transparency International, urged Abdul Kassim to act swiftly and nip in the bud mounting public unhappiness that the MACC and the police may be shielding each other.

Last week, the police launched a probe against Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is also DAP secretary-general, for suggesting that Teoh Beng Hock was murdered. Indeed it was the Selangor police who made the report against Lim, accusing him of making seditious remarks.

“This may well be the first major challenge for the new MACC chief,” said Ramon. “The Malaysian public cannot be faulted for thinking that the two officers had obtained clearance from the top to lodge the police reports.

“Generally in the civil service, this sort of action needs top-level approval. Did the two MACC officers get clearance and if not, then it behoves the new head at MACC to show that he stands for discipline, efficiency and propriety. It behoves him to reassure Malaysians that the rot will stop, that he will not stand for conspiracies, if indeed there are any.”