Sunday, July 26, 2009

TRAGEDY: Stop mindless allegations against agencies

ACRES of print have been produced on the sudden death of Teoh Beng Hock, political aide to Selangor executive council member Ean Yong Hian Wah, at Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam.Teoh had been called in by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for questioning over allegations of misuse of funds.

He was questioned from 6pm to 3.45am the following day. Numerous questions have been asked about the time he was a guest of the MACC.

Did he sign in when he entered the MACC building? Why was he interviewed till the early hours of the morning? Did the officers questioning him use intimidating techniques? Why was he allowed to wander unaccompanied in a building that houses a sensitive organisation such as the M AC C ? After such an ordeal, surely he would have rushed home. Did he commit suicide? Some, like Lim Guan Eng of the Democratic Action Party, tried to politicise the event by claiming that “Te o h ’s death was the result of the MACC’s political persecution of Pakatan Rakyat, especially DAP leaders and members”.

This is, of course, a ludicrous accusation.

Politics aside, every man, woman and child in Malaysia and elsewhere wants to know what happened on that fateful night and what caused Teoh’s death .

But we Malaysians tend to react in a knee-jerk fashion when we think we are being offended or someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We get emotional and lash out, figuratively or physically, or look for someone to blame.

But we are not going to learn the truth of what happened to Teoh by launching mindless allegations at the government or institutions that we wanted but that now come under the jurisdiction of the current government.

If we are to grow as a country, we must accept and have faith in the agencies and institutions that are the responsibility of the government we voted for.

We must leave the investigations to the parties tasked with investigating such a tragic incident.

The effectiveness of law enforcement or independent commissions depends on society’s confidence and respect.

If any conduct detracts from this confidence and respect, that conduct must be investigated and punished because it is detrimental to the public good.

Ifwe take a step back and review the comments made by those in government authorised to speak on the gover nment’s behalf,we see a level of maturity rarely seen before in Malaysia.

With some exceptions, the responses have been calm, measured, intelligent and non-partisan.

The first to speak was MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed.

He admitted that there might h ave been negligence on the part of the commission in ensuring the safety of Teoh and that remedial steps would be taken to improve the processes related to those helping the MACC with their enquiries.

Wait a minute. Rather than blaming someone else, did he just admit that the MACC may not be perfect? Kudos to him for his professionalism.

T h at ’s the way it should be because the MACC is not even a year old. It is a fledgling institution set up by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi because the people asked for it. Five advisory panels, including Pemudah and Transparency International, were consulted on the make-up of the commission.

When it was launched late last year, the MACC enjoyed unanimous public approval as it took over the duties of the Anti-Corruption Agency.

But we can’t expect the MACC to be perfect from the start. The Independent Commission Against Corruption of Hong Kong, on which the MACC is modelled, took two to three years before the Hong Kong people began to believe in it.

Next to speak up was Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim. He said the setting up of a royal commission to investigate Teoh’s death was a sensible proposal because it was considered fair by the people as it had a cross-section of representatives to investigate the death in a professional and nonpartisan manner.

So, as the story unravels, and as the nation follows closely this tragic tale, I see a more mature Malaysia evolving.

It may be too early to say, but from the ashes of this sad and needless event, I see Malaysia and its institutions coming of age and earning the respect of the nation that asked for them in the first place.

(Note: The article was published by NSTP on 23rd July 2009)

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