MACC must stop issuing ultimatums to critics
30 August 2017
Lawyers for Liberty view with grave concern the ultimatum issued by the MACC against Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and further, MACC Chief Commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad cautioning Ramkarpal Singh over their remarks regarding the legality of Penang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh’s detention. Since the Chief Minister has refused to apologise, Dzulkifli has stated that MACC will be meeting to decide on whether to proceed in taking further action against Lim.
The MACC and its Chief’s conduct are certainly ill advised and detrimental to MACC’s public standing. Why are the MACC so sensitive over Lim’s and Ramkarpal’s remarks and nit-picking over what the High Court judge allegedly said when he ordered for Phee to be freed from the remand order?
The MACC also said that Lim’s comments amounted to sub judice and contempt of court simply because the matter was now under appeal. Such a view is simplistic to say the least and showed a poor understanding of the law on sub judice and contempt of court. Further, why must the MACC take such an intolerant and extreme view when the issue being commented upon is of public interest?
Questions also arise on what type of legal action the MACC are seeking to take against Lim or even Ramkarpal? It is generally well accepted that public bodies do not have the capacity to sue for defamation, nor is it desirable as public bodies must always be open to uninhibited public criticisms. The potential of criminal defamation or other criminal action are even more appalling, as criminal law should never be misused to protect public bodies from criticisms.
Although the MACC may deny, it is hard to dispute the poor public perception of the MACC especially since the death of Teoh Beng Hock. Needless to say, this public perception cannot be improved by further taking action against those who criticise MACC’s conduct.
Public bodies and all the more so enforcement agencies must not be intolerant towards criticisms, irrespective of whether the criticisms are valid or not. Any civil or criminal action taken in defence of the MACC, can only reflect negatively upon themselves and bring further public scrutiny.
Instead of getting involved in a public tit for tat spat with opposition figures or warning all and sundry against ‘defaming’ the MACC, they should focus on fulfilling their duties in combating corruption and abuse of power. We wish to remind the MACC that the authority and respect for MACC do not come from fear but from public confidence, and this in turn depends wholly on their own conduct to give the appearance of impartiality, independence and integrity.
Let MACC’s performance on the job speak for itself rather than attempting to stifle public criticism and the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Lawyers for Liberty