DAP calls for a national debate on the need for  Whistleblowers’ legislation to create a political culture of zero tolerance for corruption and abuses of power

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has warned banking institutions in the country that they are "indirectly" responsible for staff who leak confidential transactions to the public.

There should be cooler heads and greater rationality  in dealing with allegations that employees of certain banks have been sabotaging the Government by  leaking transactions, by  posting confidential documents on the Internet and circulating information to imply that the Government was doing something bad.

Firstly, what are the facts.  There should be a full and independent investigation into such practices.  It is public knowledge that all sorts of wild allegations had been made in the run-up to the recent general election against all quarters, whether on the Internet or through traditional means, including using the means of a statutory declaration as in the case of the allegation by former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid  that former Deputy Prime Minister,
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had  amassed a fortune of RM3 billion while in government through over 20 "Master Accounts".

Murad’s  statutory declaration presented a frightening picture of the Bank Negara being a "den of thieves", deeply involved in corruption, money laundering and being a conduit of funds for shady purposes  instead of being citadel of moral and financial rectitude to ensure that bankers in the banking industry are honest and upright men and women, as if  central bankers in Malaysia are even more crooked than the most dishonest private bankers in the country!

But the Prime Minister and the Government did not seem perturbed at all by this serious implication in Murad’s statutory declaration painting Bank Negara as a "den of thieves".

The second aspect that should be addressed rationally is that the protection of official and banking secrets cannot be at the expense of protecting corruption, fraud, abuses of public funds and powers.

This is why during the debate in Parliament on the Seventh Malaysia Plan  in May 1996, I had called for a Whistleblowers’ legislation as to be found in other countries.

This is what I said in Parliament in May 1996:

"One method to develop a culture to expose corruption is the enactment of Whistleblowers’ legislation to protect those people who bring to the public’s attention any matters which are contrary to the public interest, whether it be corruption, fraud, misappropriation of public funds, criminal breach of trust, illegality, improper conduct or maladministration.

"Whistleblowing is about openness, accountability, equity, justice and ultimately democracy.

"Whistleblowers who expose corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds in the public service should not be regarded as criminals and charged under the Official Secrets Act, but should be regarded as public-spirited citizens who are performing a great public service. As the whistleblowers are acting in the public interest, they should be given the fullest protection under the Whistleblowers’ legislation to give greater meaning to the principles of open and accountable government."

Other countries like Britain take  such a Whistleblowers’ legislation seriously and this is why the British Parluiament has enacted  a Public Interest Disclosure Act in July 1999 as a result of a private member’s bill.

Major organisations in the United Kingdom have been urged by Cabinet Ministers to banish the "blame and cover-up"  culture which  dogged Britain in the past decades by ncouraging open  working environments.

A major national conference on Whistleblowing and Government was held in London last month to raise the profile of  whistleblowing, as an important step to  encourage more organisations to modernise their working practices  under the legislation and create a culture where staff could raise sensitive issues without fear of persecution.

The British Public Interest Disclosure Act  complements existing ' whistleblowing' procedures within  the British Civil Service, which  imposes a duty on civil servants to report  instances where they are being required to act in a way which is "illegal, improper, or unethical", "in breach of unconstitutional convention or a professional code" and  may involve possible maladministration.

Instead of just focussing on leaked Internet postings, the time has come for  a national debate on the need for Malaysia to have a  Whistleblowers’ legislation to create a political culture of zero tolerance for corruption and abuses of power.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman