I had in his two years as ACA chief made very strong criticisms against Zaki which have been vindicated by events, in particular for his failure to take action against the corrupt among the mighty and powerful.
Zaki had made a good impression as the ACA chief if his failure to combat the “ikan yus” is put aside, as he had communicated enthusiam, commitment and dedication in the very difficult job of combating corruption within very circumscribed parameters in the country.
I understand that at the seminar on Integrity in Business: The Way Forward organised by the Anti-Corruption Agency on March 20, 2001, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had made a very clear indication that Zaki’s term as ACA chief would be renewed on the expiry of his two-year contract.
The failure to renew Zaki’s term had therefore come as a great surprise all-round.
What is the real reason for the government’s failure to renew Zaki’s term as ACA chief? I am reminded of an editor-in-chief of a national daily owned and controlled by UMNO who, when sacked pleaded that he was “100% loyal to Mahathir”, only to be told that was not enough as what was expected of him was “110% loyalty to Mahathir”.
Mahathir should explain the reason for the government’s last-minute change of mind and explain where Zaki had been unsatisfactory and fallen short of the government’s expectations in his two years as ACA chief. Was the Cabinet ever consulted on the dropping of Zaki as ACA director-general or are Cabinet Ministers always marginalised in such decisions?
Could it be that although Zaki had been very “correct” as far as “ikan yus” are concerned, there was concern as to whether he could be reliable, dependable and “correct” not to “rock the boat” if his term is renewed, as he would have settled down as the head of the ACA chief and might be tempted in his second two-year term to flex his muscles and go after some “ikan yus” although not the most important ones?
I have nothing personal against Datuk Zulkipli Mat Noor, the former Sarawak Police Commissioner who has taken over Zaki’s position as ACA Director-General, as I do not know him and have not heard of anything about him.
But as a matter of principle, it is undesirable to appoint a policeman to head the ACA as public complaints against the police for corruption are one of the most widespread of all government departments and to have a policeman to have full responsibility over the ACA is not calculated to enhance public confidence in its anti-corruption commitment and efforts.
Utusan Malaysia of 3rd April 2001 reported that on his first day as ACA director-general, Zulkipli called on the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should inform Parliament and the nation as to what transpired in his meeting with Zulkipli, whether he had specifically given him a blank-cheque to take action against the corrupt without fear or favour, whether ikan yu or ikan bilis.
This was what the first Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman did when he appointed Harun Hashim as the first ACA Director-General telling him that he would have a free hand to fight corruption and that there would be no interference from any quarter - a story which Tan Sri Harun is fond of narrating at all anti-corruption forums.
Or had Mahathir failed to give Zulkipli such an assurance that the new ACA director-general is at total liberty to investigate and arrest any “ikan yu” and that he need not fear any interference from him or any top government leader - which is itself a message!
When one of the first things a new ACA director-general must do is to meet the Prime Minister, it highlights the lack of independence and professionalism of the post. It would be different if on the same day the new ACA chief also called on the Parliamentary Opposition Leader.
Zulkipli should know that there is no “honeymoon” period for his new post as ACA director-general as he is immediately under test - in particular over the police report lodged by the UMNO Assemblyman for Beserah, Pahang and former Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman against Information Minister and UMNO Secretary-General, Tan Sri Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob for being guilty of abuse of power and corrupt practices during his tenure as Pahang Mentri Besar.
There have been news reports that the UMNO special ad hoc disciplinary committee is investigating into Fauzi’s allegations of corrupt practices against Khalil, which would be most unlawful as usurping the powers of the ACA as Fauzi’s report has been officially referred to the ACA by the Pahang police.
Since Fauzi has lodged a police report against Khalil for abuse of power and corrupt practice during his tenure as Pahang Mentri Besar, investigations into this specific subject-matter is exclusively in the hands of the ACA and no other bodies, not even UMNO, should interfere with or undermine the ACA investigations.
As a first step, Zulkipli should warn the UMNO Disciplinary Board chairman, Tengku Rithaudeen that the UMNO disciplinary ad hoc committee should cease and desist from any investigations into Fauzi’s corruption report against Khalil so as not to interfere or undermine ACA investigations.
Has Zulkipli the powers to issue such a warning or are his hands tied right from the very beginning of his assigment?