‘Whistleblowers deserve better’

PETALING JAYA: Any amendments to the current Whistleblower Protection Act must ensure better protection for whistleblowers, say experts.

Transparency International Malaysia president Dr Muhammad Mohan said amendments should allow for whistleblowers to be protected even if their disclosure broke any laws such as the Official Secrets Act, Penal Code or banking secrecy.

“Internal whistleblowing should be protected under the Whistle-blower Protection Act instead of it being just towards enforcement agencies.

“Instances of external whistleblowing should also allow lodging reports to other bodies, such as NGOs and other government agencies, instead of it being limited to enforcement agencies,” he said, adding that these aspects were crucial towards protecting whistleblowers.

He also noted that letting whistleblowers report any instances of wrongdoing to entities apart from enforcement agencies should also be allowed, in cases of trust deficit with enforcement agencies when handling such cases.

“Whistleblowing is a powerful tool to fight corruption.

“The longer we wait (for studies or further amendments) the worse corruption can become,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy, said that retaliatory actions against whistleblowers must be deterred with clear and exact language in any amendments in order to remove any loopholes.

“If it is proven that the people above have been ‘playing dirty’ by being vindictive to the whistleblower, strict action must be taken, be it the public or the private sector.

“All this has to be spelt out properly,” he said.

Quick and decisive actions must also be taken on those who leaked whistleblower identities.

He added that investigators should also do the work to build their case and to not expect “everything to be served on a silver platter”.

The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said a major problem faced under the current Act was the implication of Section 6(1), that allows an individual to be afforded whistleblower status.

Its acting chief executive officer Pushpan Murugiah said the issue here was twofold, where a person can only qualify as a whistleblower and receive protections granted by the Act if the report is made to an enforcement agency such as the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“This does not give people many options due to the trust deficit between the public and government institutions, which discourages many from exposing corruption due to fear for their own safety,” he said.

Puspan said the whistleblower may also continue to be exposed to criminal prosecution if the information revealed is classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972 or in cases of a government servant, the information is obtained in the course of their duty.“This exposes them to the risk of prosecution under Section 203A of the Penal Code, which should be read in addition to Section 11(1) of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

“Due to this, enforcement agencies are empowered to revoke whistleblower protection which sees whistleblowers being denied any protection,” he said.

He added that the scope of the OSA and Penal Code 203A should be narrowed or amended to prevent a blanket application of these laws on all scenarios, which inadvertently shields those in government who may be participating or complicit in corruption.

“Reforms to the Whistleblower Protection Act are one of easiest to carry out due to the wide availability of many studies and reports that have already been conducted with there even being a taskforce under previous administrations helmed by the Legal Affairs Department under the Prime Minister’s Office that looked into whistleblower law reform.

“There is no point in re-examining the issue from the beginning repeatedly as the consensus to enact these reforms has been reached time and time again,” he said.

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