MACC must stop misleading, it has no arbitrary right to deprive the public’s access to lawyers during questioning
10 June 2023
We refer to press statement by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) on 9 June 2023 in response to our statement regarding MACC’s denial of legal counsel during questioning or interrogation process.
We are appalled by their response, which essentially states that they can and will deprive the public of their right to lawyers during questioning as they see fit. This is arbitrary, unlawful and unbefitting a key enforcement agency of a democratic nation.
It is entirely dishonest for MACC to simply assume that as a legally empowered body that it means that it will or has adhered to the Federal Constitution. The death of Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbani whilst in MACC custody, both of whom were denied access to lawyers when interrogation was conducted, are proof enough that our assertions of their denial of rights is not malicious. It is a legitimate public concern that they have chosen to ignore.
Furthermore, the court decision in the case ‘Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission & Ors v Latheefa Beebi Koya & Anor’ has been misleadingly and wrongly quoted by MACC in their response. That court’s statement with regards to right of counsel of witnesses under Article 5 was merely ‘obiter dictum’, an opinion that is not legally binding. An honest reading of the case would make clear that the sole question decided by the Federal Court was only whether a notice under section 30(1)(a) of the MACC Act can be judicially reviewed. The case therefore cannot be used as an authority to deny right to counsel under article 5 of the Federal Constitution for those called for questioning or interrogation. Like the devil quoting the scripture, MACC is quoting things out of context to justify their oppressive acts.
The case of ‘Datuk Hasanah Ab Hamid v. MACC’ quoted is equally irrelevant. MACC’s references to SOSMA and other laws that restrict access to legal counsel are equally nonsensical and irrelevant here.
It speaks volumes that MACC in their statement have not addressed the concerns of the selective treatment given to important public figures as opposed to the average member of the public, nor does it address the unlawful acts of intimidation by its officers against lawyers by threatening to record their statements as well.
As they themselves admitted, as an enforcement agency enacted by law, they must ensure that they adhere to the Federal Constitution and the rule of law. As such, serious allegations such as those we raised must be investigated instead of issuing a statement of bare denials.
The PH-led government who have said repeatedly that they champion reform must seriously look into the administration of MACC and investigate their actions of denying legal counsel for witnesses or suspects called for questioning. The government is duty bound to ensure that all enforcement agencies, including MACC, respect the rule of law and the Constitution.
Lawyers for Liberty