Press statement

Misleading and disingenuous to insist on Whistleblower Protection Act

25 July 2015

Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the IGP’s statement regarding whistleblowing through improper channels and insisted that whistleblowers are only protected by law if they go through the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).

This is misleading and disingenuous to say the least, as the WPA is rendered virtually ineffective and meaningless by at least three highly questionable provisions that are incompatible with the purpose of enacting such a law in the first place (i.e. to combat corruption and wrongdoings by facilitating disclosures and to protect whistleblowers) and the standard provisions in other countries with proper whistleblower protection framework.

First, according to the proviso in section 6(1) of the WPA, the disclosure will not fall under its protection if the disclosure is prohibited by any written law, for example, banking confidentiality provisions that prohibit unauthorised disclosures, and the Officials Secrets Act that confers absolute discretion to the relevant authorities to classify any official document as “official secret” even though it may not be a secret or security risk, and its exposure is in the public interest.

Second, section 11(1)(d) of the WPA states that the whistleblower protection conferred can be revoked if the “disclosure of improper conduct principally involves questioning the merits of government policy, including policy of a public body” – surely a preposterous provision, as in most cases of serious or systemic wrongdoings of public bodies, this will involve questioning the merits of government and public body policy.

Third, section 8 of the WPA further criminalises the whistleblower if he were to divulge the wrongdoing to another party (including to the press or members of Parliament) once he has invoked the “protection” of the Act – an offence punishable with a fine up to RM50,000 and/or imprisonment up to ten years.

Applying these oppressive provisions to the 1MDB scandal, if The Edge had gone through the WPA procedure, do we for a moment think that the authorities would all of a sudden become independent and swoop down on the perpetrators? Would the culture of secrecy, lack of transparency and accountability suddenly disappear?

Let us be clear, without any media and public pressure, the whole 1MDB scandal would simply have been hushed up.

The WPA is clearly not a proper whistleblower protection law enacted to serve the public interest or to combat corruption. It is designed to place potential whistleblowers in a dilemma, to pressure them to go through a false whistleblower protection procedure where very little will be done, and more importantly, to stop them from going to the press or to the authorities’ political adversaries.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

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