Graft fighters prescribe ways to protect whistleblowers

Topic: Whistleblower Protection
Related news: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/11/17/graft-fighters-prescribe-ways-to-protect-whistleblowers#.YZRb8zdnfqo.whatsapp
Coverage by: The Star

Anti-corruption advocates say certain provisions in Malaysian law must be urgently revised or even abolished to provide better protection for whistleblowers, in welcoming the government’s announcement of amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) 2010.

Among the provisions under the law that need to be looked at are Section 4, Section 6(1), Section 8(1) and (4), as well as Section 11 of the WPA, and also Section 203A of the Penal Code, say graft fighters.

The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) founding director Cynthia Gabriel said the 11-year-old Act had systematically failed to protect whistleblowers.

She said Section 6(1) needs to be amended as it limits whistleblowers to reporting cases to enforcement agencies only, failing which, whistleblower protection would be revoked.

She added that there should be permitted disclosure through other means, apart from an enforcement agency.

“They should be allowed to expose it through employers, lawyers or other responsible persons such as Members of Parliament,” said Gabriel.

Sinar Project coordinator Khairil Yusof also echoed Gabriel’s assertions for Section 6(1) of the WPA 2010 to be amended.

“Additionally, Section 6(1) should also be amended to remove the condition that the disclosure cannot break any existing law.

“This is because there are multiple laws against disclosure of information that can be used against the whistleblower such as OSA, Sedition Act, BAFIA and Section 203A in the Penal Code which is a broad and vague law restricting public officials from disclosing information for fear of imprisonment or jail,” he added.

Gabriel said the WPA 2010 and other secrecy laws must be amended to extend immunity to whistleblowers.

“There should be a defence available for the whistleblowers against any law that may have been broken, for example if the disclosure exposes a serious crime or evidence against corruption or if disclosure is in the public interest,” she said.

She added that Section 8(1) should also be amended to permit disclosure of information regarding improper conduct to other third parties such as a legal adviser, confidant, other persons in authority or members of Parliament.

Section 8(1) of the WPA 2010 states that any person who makes or receives a disclosure of improper conduct or obtains confidential information in the course of investigation into such disclosure shall not disclose the confidential information or any part thereof.

Section 4 of the same Act should be abolished as a Minister should not have power to direct, interfere or intervene in any manner with respect to the work of the enforcement agency or the investigation with respect to a disclosure of improper conduct, she added.

“Whistleblowing is among the most crucial elements of calling out and exposing corruption,” Gabriel said.

“But in Malaysia, a whistleblower often gets attacked and harassed for exposing potential corruption, especially if the case involves people in high positions.”

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Dr Muhammad Mohan said the amendments were long overdue and urgent, adding that WPA 2010 was underutilised by whistleblowers due to its serious gaps.

“This made it ineffective as it does not go far enough to protect whistleblowers in certain situations, thus making them afraid to make disclosures,” he said.

Yesterday, Minister in charge of Parliament and Law Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Parliament that since 2011, 73,554 informers had come forward to provide information but only 527 were afforded protection under the Act.

Wan Junaidi said amendments would be made to the WPA 2010 to ensure complete confidentiality of those providing information against corruption and abuse of power

“TI-M recognises, as do all anti-corruption agencies and NGOs throughout the world, that whistleblowing is a powerful tool to fight corruption and the whistleblowers should be adequately protected at all times,” said Muhammad.

There should also be no wrongdoing that can be protected by any law from whistleblowing, he said, adding that currently, if a civil servant whistleblows and it contravenes the OSA or the Penal Code, then there is no whistleblowing protection for them under the WPA 2010.

“There should be a centralised body or more entities to whom whistleblowers can make their reports and not just to enforcement agencies,” Muhammad added.

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