Pas’ contention that Azam Baki, the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), has cleared his name is nothing but hogwash. Without being investigated, Azam cannot be cleared. That is the absolute truth. Just because Azam claimed he had done no wrong, that doesn’t clear him. That is not how justice works.
When Pas says Azam has been cleared, I say, “My foot!”
A bare denial doesn’t establish innocence. Azam wasn’t investigated. All he said was “I did not do anything wrong”. On that basis he was cleared? It was bizarre. It was absurd.
It has not been established that Azam’s younger brother had used Azam’s account to acquire those shares way back in 2012 or that the brother had indeed paid for those shares. Both remain only a mere claim on the part of Azam.
These are the central issues that cry out for a cogent and coherent explanation.
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Azam was not given a show-cause letter. He did not appear before a committee. Questions were not put to him seeking answers. None of this took place.
How then did Pas secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan come to the incredulous conclusion that Azam had cleared his name? Takiyuddin also said Pas hoped allegations against Azam would now be put to rest and that the burden of proof lay with the MACC chief’s accusers.
It is difficult to follow Takiyuddin’s convoluted logic. Who is accusing Azam? The burden of proof stares at the world from what is reported about Azam’s unexplained fantastic shares. People did not accuse Azam, but only asked for an explanation on how he was able to own such a huge number of shares. That is a legitimate query.
Inexplicably, Takiyuddin also alleged the accusations against Azam were meant to destabilise Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government.
Now who is playing politics?
This is clearly a red herring. What has Azam’s case to do with the stability of Ismail Sabri’s government? Takiyuddin is trying to hoodwink the public by bringing in politics to divert the people’s attention from the real issue, ie Azam’s flouting of the rules and regulations. How can this violation be tied to the stability of a government? Azam is merely a civil servant – not a cabinet minister!
Seriously, some thinking Malaysians wonder whether this story about Azam’s younger brother buying shares using Azam’s name was conveniently concocted as an afterthought to ward off criticism when it came to light that Azam held this huge amount of shares in his accounts in violation of Public Service Circular No. 3 of 2002 that forbids civil servants from holding more than RM100,000 worth of shares. Is this an attempt to extricate himself from a tight situation?
Was Azam ignorant of this service circular? It was impossible for him not to know. After all, he was the investigating officer of MACC in 2015-16 and, in the course of his investigation of any civil servant for corruption, this circular must have been at his disposal.
But what cannot be disputed is the fact that until the shares were transferred to his brother, they were his legally though not, as thus far argued, beneficially. He was the legal owner of that asset, requiring him to declare his interest.
Did he declare this beneficial asset to his head of department? Was this new asset disclosed to the Inland Revenue Board?
As a public servant, he must have known (see Section 23 of Service Circular No. 3/2002) that he could not own more than RM100,000 in shares. He violated this condition. He flouted this rule and therefore must face the consequence.
There is no solid proof that his brother indeed bought those shares in Azam’s name. It is only Azam’s word without any evidence adduced in and accepted by an appropriate forum to support his claim. His brother has not come forward to collaborate this claim.
Azam in his press conference only mentioned he had informed his unnamed superior about the shares. That seems to be the only occasion when he had discussed the share-buying controversy. If this was discussed on any other occasion, he would certainly have mentioned it. But he did not.
And yet, MACC anti-corruption advisory board chairperson Abu Zahar Ujang, mentioned at the special press conference on 5 January 2022 that the board had met on 24 November 2021. According to Abu Zahar, Azam gave its members an explanation of the allegations made against him.
This raises two issues.
First, when on 14 December, ie some three weeks later, the PKR MP for Sungai Buloh, Sivarasa Rasiah, disclosed Azam had massive shares allegedly worth millions of ringgit, why didn’t the board clarify this issue and clear Azam’s name immediately? After all, they had a ready explanation at hand from the horse’s mouth! Why didn’t they take this opportunity to put an end to this controversy? Why wait six weeks before revealing this? Why the unexplained delay?
Second, why didn’t Azam, at his press conference on 5 January, mention he had already cleared this with the board on 24 November, ie six weeks ago? It could not have skipped his mind. He only mentioned he had informed his superior, something he did long ago. He remembered that but forgot what happened just six weeks earlier! Isn’t that very strange?
With so many unanswered questions, can Takiyuddin honestly claim Azam had cleared himself?
The MACC’s image has been battered and shattered, and restoring its dignity and integrity will prove to be a grave challenge. Any internal investigation will be seen as a gloss-over to save its image – which no one will believe or trust. It is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. We cannot have this important corruption-buster existing as a lame duck in a cloud of doubt and suspicion.
Only a thorough and external investigation by a body of impeccable character can retrieve the lost dignity and integrity and restore public confidence in its role as a fearless agency that will fight corruption with all its might.
For this, there is an urgent need to set up a royal commission of inquiry. It is the only way to restore the lost prestige of and respect for the MACC.
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