The issue of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Azam Baki allegedly owning millions of shares in his name was first disclosed by PKR Sungai Buloh MP Sivarasa Rasiah on 14 December 2021.
While it was raging as a hot issue of concern, questioning the very integrity of the MACC, nothing was said or explained by the MACC or Azam regarding this issue.
Three weeks later, Azam Baki held a press conference yesterday afternoon (6 January) to exonerate himself. He said “he did not immediately respond to allegations on his shareholdings because he believed he did nothing wrong”.
It is a strange position to take. If he was innocent, as claimed, there was all the more reason he should have responded immediately. His silence was irresponsible, to put it mildly. By ignoring an issue that needed an urgent explanation, he had unnecessarily invited comments very damaging to his reputation. By refusing to be accountable to public opinion, he had encouraged comments that had tarnished the standing of the MACC. By not addressing the burning issue urgently, he was responsible for people doubting the integrity of the MACC.
When questioned by a journalist about why it took him some time to openly address the issue, he responded, “I did not respond (to the allegations) in public because I did not do anything wrong.”
Well, it is not for him to conclude that he did not do anything wrong but for the public to judge for themselves after considering his explanation. He cannot clear himself; he has to be cleared by others after listening to his explanation. That norm is succinctly captured in the maxim “No man can be his own judge”.
In another ludicrous statement, he said, “Like what I have explained to the advisory board [the MACC corruption prevention advisory board or LPPR], the shares were bought by my brother who borrowed my name.”
This is really intriguing!
Why had his brother to borrow his name? That has not been explained at all. Couldn’t his brother have bought those shares under his own name? What prevented him from doing so through his own volition? What was the advantage of buying those shares in Azam Baki’s name? Was there a special discount or a special rate for those shares bought under Azam’s name?
Was his brother trying to get around a problem by using Azam’s name? What was the problem? What was the need? We need to know!
Further, couldn’t Azam have advised his brother that it would be wrong to buy under his name because that would create difficulties for him when the issue became public, as it has now? As the MACC chief commissioner, Azam must always know that he must, like Caesar’s wife, be beyond reproach.
Azam further clarified, “When I was called to explain about the matter, I appeared before the advisory board and provided them with details. I am only answerable to LPPR,” he said.
Surprisingly, he does not mention the date when he appeared before the board to provide his clarification. We need to know when this took place. After MP Sivarasa raised the issue or even before that?
Malaysians cannot accept his claim that he is “only answerable to LPPR”.
Don’t turn technical when your own moral integrity is at stake! No, my friend, ultimately you are answerable to the public who pay your salary. You are accountable to us, the public.
Azam, seemingly in trying to extricate himself from this awkward situation, added, “And all the shares were later transferred back to him (my brother).”
Why this to-and-fro method of doing business? What advantage did his brother have in buying the shares under Azam’s name? Why this roundabout way of transaction?
You cannot blame people if they think this is a cock-and-bull story!
When pressed further about why had he let his brother use his name to buy the shares, Azam said he did not see it as an issue.
Instead, he challenged his critics to prove that dealing in such a way was an offence. “I will just give a brief answer to this. I did not see it as an issue, so I let him (buy the shares using my name).
You are not anybody, Azam. You are in charge of curbing and controlling corruption. When it came to light that you had this huge, unexplained amount of shares, it put the MACC in a tight spot. The public had a right to ask, “Why put a fox in a chicken pen to guard the chicken?”
Azam claimed he had briefed his unnamed superior in the MACC back then about his brother acquiring shares in the MACC chief’s name. Azam added he did this on his own initiative, despite not having to do so.
If the MACC was already aware of this case, wouldn’t it be natural for it to have come out with an immediate explanation rather than allowing this issue to drag on and tarnish its image?
Wouldn’t it have been prudent on the part of Azam to have informed the board – rather than his unnamed superior – so that this situation could have been noted and minuted and put beyond question? Why didn’t he do this simple thing – follow the right procedure?
According to Azam, what was happening now was an attempt by certain interested parties who want to erode the people’s trust in the MACC.
If that was so, are you insinuating that the public is so stupid to swallow everything that was said by these interested parties? If you had responded immediately, the question of the MACC losing public trust would not have arisen. You caused this perception. You were responsible for the negative views and statements made by various quarters. You had a duty to safeguard the MACC’s reputation, but you failed to do so. You allowed the MACC to be dragged through the mud.
Azam pledged, “I give my assurance that I will continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities to bring the MACC towards being an agency that is credible, integrity (sic) and professional in all its actions.”
The sad truth is, nobody will now believe you are the person capable of turning the MACC into an agency that is credible and professional. Your long silence and evasive answers are the cause of the erosion of public confidence in the MACC.