The Round Table (II) on the Anti-Corruption Bill held in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday was was attended by juristic, legal and academic luminaries of the country like Tan Sri Harun Hashim, the first Anti-Corruption Agency director-general, former judge and currently Acting Dean of the Law Faculty of the International Islamic University; Raja Aziz Addruse, President of HAKAM and former Bar Council chairman; Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, Special United Nations Rapporteur on the Independence of the Judiciary and Lawyers and former Bar Council chairman; Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, Malaysia’s world authority on corruption and Governing Board member of Transparency International; Dr. Jomo, K.S. , renowed Malaysian economist and Tunku Aziz, convenor of Transparency International (Malaysia).
The Round Table (II) on the Anti-Corruption Bill held in Kuala Lumpur yesterday reached a five-point consensus on the Bill:
Firstly, that it should be referred to a Select Committee to allow for a proper process of public consultation and participation.
Secondly, the need to ensure the the Anti-Corruption Agency is independent and enjoys public confidence in its impartiality and professionalism.
Thirdly, opposition to Section 20 which creates the new offence entailing RM100,000 fine, ten years’ jail or both for any person who makes a false statement on corruption.
Fourthly, the need for Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen to publicly and periodically declare their assets, income and liabilities.
Fifthly, the need for a definitive and clear-cut provision to make it an offence for those holding public office who has pecuniary resources or property or maintains a lifestyle disproportionate to their known sources of income.
I will seek implement the five-point Consensus of the Round Table (II) on the Anti-Corruption Bill by moving a motion at the end of the second reading of the Bill to refer it to a Select Committee, as well as to introduce amendments with regard to the four other items of the Five-Point Consensus.
The first thrust of the 24 amendments to the Anti-Corruption Bill, which is likely to be debated in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow during the Committee stage, is to ensure the full independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
I am proposing several amendments on the independence of the ACA, such as:
The second thrust of the amendments is to secure public confidence that the Bill is genuinely aimed at the "big fish" and not just an empty public exercise, and that it represents a serious and wholehearted commitment by the top political leadership to set an example of integrity.
I have submitted two important amendments in this regard, one the "sunlight" provision, to require every Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman to publicly and annually declare his assets, income and liabildities.
The second amendment is to provide a categorical and clear-cut provision making it an offence for anyone holding high political or public office to acquire extraordinary wealth completely disproportionate to their known legal sources of income.
The "sunlight" provision requiring MPs and State Assemblymen to publicly declare assets, income and liabilities to set an example of political integrity for the whole country is the new Section 16 B in the Anti-Corruption Bill which I am proposing during the Committee stage of the debate in Parliament. It reads:
"Declaration of Assets by Members of Parliament
16B. (1) Every member of Parliament shall furnish to Parliament, which shall be kept in a register accessible to the public, a sworn declaration of assets, income and liabilities.
(2) A declaration shall be furnished pursuant to sub-section (1) within three months of becoming a Member of Parliament in respect of his assets, income and liabilities for the year ended on the previous 31st December;
and thereafter on the 31st December in each year that he is a Member of Parliament, in respect of his assets, income and liabilities as at the 31st day of December in that year, so, however, that a declaration required to be furnished on the 31st day of December in any year shall be deemed to comply with the requirements of this sub-section if it is furnished before the 1st day of March next following that date;
(3) Every declaration furnished pursuant to this section shall be verified by sworn affidavit as to the truth and accuracy of the contents of such declaration.
(4) (i) A declaration required under this Act shall include such particulars as are known to the declarant of the assets, income and liabilities of himself, of his spouse and of his children:
(a)if the spouse was not ordinarily living with the declarant for a continuous period of three months during the period in relation to which the declaration is made; or
(b)if a child of the declarant was not ordinarily living with the declarant at any time during the period in relation to which the declaration is made,
the particulars required to be furnished by this subsection shall be limited to assets held by the spouse or child (as the case may be) in trust for, or as agent of the declarant.
(ii) A declaration may be accompanied by a statement of affairs certified by a chartered accountant if the declarant so thinks fit.
(iii) Where a Member of Parliament holds money or other property in trust for another person, he may so state in his declaration, but shall not be required to disclose the terms of the trust.
(iv) For the purposes of a declaration under this Act, the income, assets and liabilities of a Member of Parliament include the income, assets and liabilities acquired, held or incurred by any other person as his agent or on his behalf.
(5) Any Member of Parliament who (a) fails without reasonable cause, to furnish a declaration under this section; or (b) knowingly makes any false statement in such declaration,
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both such fine and imprisonment."
The amendment making it an offence for any person holding high political or public office to have unexplained wealth would be new Section 16 A of the Bill, which reads:
"16A - Possession of unexplained property
(1) Any person who, being or having been an officer of a public body, - · (a) maintains a standard of living above that which is commensurate with his present or past official emolument; or · (b) is in control of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his present or past official emoluments, shall, unless he gives a satisfactory explanation to the court as to how he was able to maintain such a standard of living or how such pecuniary resources or property came under his control, be guilty of an offence.
(2) Where a court is satisfied in proceedings for an offence under subsection (1)(b) that, having regard to the closeness of his relationship to the accused and to other circumstances, there is reason to believe that any person was holding pecuniary resources or property in trust for or otherwise on behalf of the accused or acquired such resources or property as a gift from the accused, such resources or property shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have been in control of the accused.
(3) Where a person is convicted on indictment of an offence under subsection (1)(b) the court may, in addition to any penalty imposed by any other section under this Act, order the confiscation of any pecuniary resources or property -
(a) found at the trial to be in his control as provided in subsection (1); and (b) of an amount or value not exceeding the amount or value of pecuniary resources or property in acquisition of which by him was not explained to the satisfaction of the court."
The third important thrust of the 24 amendments is to remove the negative impact of the Bill, which has struck fear instead of enlisting support among the people to give full co-operation to the ACA to fight corruption, as for instance, in the proposed new Section 20 on false reports, with its heavy sentence of RM100,000 fine, 10 years jail or both.
I am proposing that the fine for false reports on corruption should be the same as existing offences for false information or reports under the Criminal Procedure Code, which is RM10,000 or two years jail or both.
Furthermore, I am proposing a ‘whistleblowers protection’ clause to protect those in public service who give information to disclose corrupt conduct in government from reprisals or victimisation.
This ‘whistleblowers’ protection’ law - which if passed will be the first of its kind in Malaysian history - will be new section 20(4) which reads:
(a) Where any officer of a public body suspects on reasonable grounds shows or tends to show that, in the exercise of a function conferred or imposed on the public authority or another public official, the public authority or public official has engaged, is engaged or proposes to engage in corrupt conduct under this Act, and makes a statement or disclosure to the Agency, such disclosure of information shall be protected from reprisals.
(b) A person who takes detrimental action against another person that is substantially in reprisal for the other person making a protected disclosure is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction to liable to a fine not exceeding RM100,000 ringgit, two years’ jail or to both.
(c ) In this subsection, "detrimental action" means action causing, comprising or involving any of the following:
(i) injury, damage or loss;
(ii) intimidation or harassment;
(iii) discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to employment;
(iv) dismissal from, or prejudice in, employment; and
(v) disciplinary proceeding."
As a check against abuses of power by the Attorney-General in his capacity as Public Prosecutor, I am also proposing an amendment to provide a Review Committee to be set up by Parliament to review cases submitted by the Anti-Corruption Agency to the Public Prosecutor but never prosecuted to enable the Committee to submit an annual report of its oversight functions.
This is in fact one of the proposals in the 16-Point Declaration made by the Consensus Against Corruption Conference organised by the Barisan Backbenchers’ Club together with three other think-tanks at the Putra World Trade Centre on July 19.
Other amendments I would be proposing to the Anti-Corruption Bill during the Committee stage are: