(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Yesterday, the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) denied that it had started investigations into the Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Abu Hassan Omar in connection with his 125-day stay at a five-star hotel, Radisson Hotel, last year involving a bill amounting to RM77,642.07 while his official residence was being renovated for RM4.1 million.
Earlier, ACA had also denied that it was investigating the MAS executive chairman, Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli.
It would appear that despite having enhanced powers, finance and staffing as a result of the enactment of the new Anti-Corruption Act 1997, the ACA is spending a lot of energy denying that it was conducting investigations rather than convincing the people and country that it is now an agency to be feared.
The time has come for the ACA to show that it is serious in the war against corruption and that it truly has teeth after the enforcement of the Anti-corruption Act. This is most imperative in view of the negative speeches which have been made by some Barisan Nasional MPs in last week’s Parliament about Transparency International, which reflected their less-than-fulsome commitment in an all-out war against corruption.
I have just received an answer to a parliamentary question about the ACA which I find most unsatisfactory and evidence that the ACA has not changed very much under the new anti-corruption law as compared to the previous legislation.
I had asked about the effect of the new Anti-Corruption Act 1997 in the battle against corruption and the result of ACA investigations into various prominent personalities, like former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Taib; the son of the MCA President, Datuk Seri Ling Liong Sik, i.e. Ling Hee Liong who at the age of 27 could acquire RM1.2 billion corporate stake and whether there had been any abuse of Liong Sik’s political and Ministerial position and the Perwaja financial scandal.
The reply I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dato’ Othman Abdul is as follows:
"Pada peringkat ini adalah masih terlalu awal untuk menilai kesan positif Akta Pencegahan Rasuah 1997 (Anti-Corruption Act 1997) kerana Akta berkenaan baru sahaja dikuatkuasakan pada 8 Januari 1998. Namun demikian, Kerajaan tetap yakin Akta tersebut mampu untuk menangani gejala rasuah di negara ini dengan lebih berkesan.
"Badan Pencegah Rasuah (BPR) masih lagi menjalankan siasatan terhadap kes pemilikan syarikat bernilai RM1.2 billion oleh Ling Hee Leong, anak Presiden MCA dan Menteri Pengangkutan, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik. Kertas Siasatan terhadap bekas Mentri Besar Selangor, Tan Sri Muhammad Mohd. Taib telah dikemukakan kepada Peguam Kanan Persekutuan di Bahagian Pendakwaan BPR untuk kajian manakala laporan awal siasatan berhubung dengan penyelewengan yang dikatakan berlaku dalam Perwaja Steel telah pun dikemukakan kepada Jabatan Peguam Negara.
"Walaubagaimana pun adalah menjadi dasar Badan ini untuk tidak membincangkan atau mendedahkan butir-butir berkaitan kes yang masih dalam siasatan kerana tidak adil kepada pihak berkenaan dan juga boleh menimbulkan subjudice kelak."
The long delay, sometimes running into years, for the ACA to arrive at something concrete in the investigations involving distinguished personalities is most unsatisfactory and the reference about "sub-judice" is completely misplaced and a red herring, as no case, whether involving Muhammad Taib, Ling Hee Leong or Eric Cheah is currently in court.