PETALING JAYA: The move by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to release audio clips incriminating former top officials, including Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has received criticism by several leaders and lawyers.
In a statement, the Malaysian Bar said it was “shocked and appalled to read of reports detailing the damning revelations alleging political conspiracy at the highest levels.”
Its president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said the broadcast of recorded telephone conversations by the MACC is unprecedented and improper and will invite trial by media even before investigations are carried out.
“The manner of the disclosure is unwarranted and has given rise to various allegations against the MACC, including allegations of contempt, sub judice, a breach of the Official Secrets Act 1972, and a withering of the rule of law.
“The MACC should instead have informed the public of the existence of such audio recordings and let the relevant authorities carry out their investigation, ” he said.
MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the MACC had set a bad precedence as it could open the floodgates for others to also hold press conferences to publicly expose such embarrassing audio recordings and videos.
“Why resort to trial by media? If the person in question had committed an offence, haul him to court and tender evidence there, ” he said.
Dr Wee and a number of leaders slammed MACC chief Latheefa Koya for publicly playing nine audioclips of telephone conversations implicating Najib, his wife and several top government officials, among others, indicating alleged abuse of power, criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice and the undermining of national security.
In Seremban, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said MACC should have handed over the alleged fresh evidence associated with 1Malaysia Development Bhd to the police, instead of going public.
He said MACC’s unprecedented move to publicly expose highly confidential conversations reflect its lack of professionalism.
“It is wrong to make public a conversation between the country’s leader and his foreign counterpart because it is highly private and confidential.
“This will also create unnecessary problems with the United Arab Emirates government.
“The MACC should know that it is important that Malaysia does not get into any conflict with any country as we search for the truth on the 1MDB scandal, ” he said.
The Centre for Independent Journalism (ICJ) said MACC should have presented only the relevant information in a report or transcript and censor unrelated conversations that were irrelevant to the alleged offence.
It added the government should review Section 116c of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to ensure citizens would not be subjected to unnecessary and intrusive surveillance and interception of communication without due process.
Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said MACC had flouted the rule of law by releasing materials that were beyond its jurisdiction to investigate.
He said Latheefa should have ordered the officer who had received the nine audioclips to lodge a police report because it was not within the jurisdiction of the MACC to investigate criminal offence under the Penal Code.
“If indeed there were elements of other crimes, it should be investigated under the Penal Code and not the MACC Act, ” he said in a statement.
Lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo questioned MACC’s motive in releasing the telephone conversation recordings in the run-up to the Kimanis by-election.
“What really is the motive of playing the recordings publicly before police investigations? Convenient that a by-election is around the corner.
“Imagine the uproar if we were in Opposition and this was done to one of our politicians. Double standards, ” she said in her Facebook posting.
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said it was ironic that Najib had amended the CPC in 2012 to empower the police to intercept, listen or record communications with the authorisation of the public prosecutor.
“It is high time the authorities looked into amending the laws to avoid abuse and safeguard privacy rights, ” said Syahredzan, who is also DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang’s political secretary.
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