A New Paradigm Shift Needed to Protect Whistleblowers in the Fight Against Corruption

So much has been said over the Najib administration’s embarrassing gaffes this last week – from blocking whistleblower site Sarawak Report to suspending business weekly the EDGE, yet worst - imposing travel bans on messengers and whistleblowers, instead of nailing down the alleged crooks and suspects linked to the muddied 1MDB money trail.

It embarrasses us further to hear our top cop talking about whistling quietly, and his insistence that the law does indeed provide protection for those who report on corruption.

What a mockery that statement makes – for there is indeed no protection for those who speak up against corruption. Unmasking the corrupt comes with massive reprisals in Malaysia. The EDGE and Sarawak Report investigative reporting, on the 1MDB scandal the past year, has challenged this notion, exposed bare the ills of the leadership and unlocked Barisan Nasional’s prized secret of cronyism and patronage politics.

Instead of countering the staggering allegations with evidence and clear answers, the administration has chosen to act with despotic fervor. Instead of seeking legal recourse they have chosen to confuse the public, and abuse public institutions to protect their own wrong.

The Home Minister and the Inspector General of Police must not and cannot stand in the way of the truth. They must not obstruct public duty of ordinary citizens, including journalists and media organisations from exposing corruption.

A New Approach Needed to Protect Whistleblowers - Key Stakeholders in the Fight Against Corruption

The Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4), firmly believes that Whistleblowers’ are key agents in the fight against corruption. They must be accorded the highest level of protection and appreciated for their role in unmasking the corrupt offenders. For without them, Malaysians would be in the dark over the real questions of where is the missing money, did it get deposited into the Prime Minister’s account and if it was used to bank roll the last general elections - all of which still remain unanswered.

The 1 MDB scandal has brought to surface the urgent need to protect whistleblowers, for without them Malaysians will be left in the dark on government corruption. This isn’t the first time of course.

We saw in the NFC scandal how the whistleblower was charged in court for violating the Banking and Financial Institutions Act , and in the Scorpene scandal, the NGO who blew the whistle was harassed and almost deregistered after more than a year of continued harassment.

Shooting the messenger - will not help - and it certainly wont help Najib to come out of his misery smelling like roses. Fear tactics may divert the nation’s attention for a while but it would never succeed in covering up the truth.

In light of the series of accusations trail blazing the pathways to Najib’s office in Putrajaya, it is time for a serious paradigm shift in whistleblower protection, if we are serious about fighting corruption.

C4 urges Parliament to immediately review the three questionable clauses that stand in the way of whistleblower protection in Malaysia.

The clauses are:

1. Section 6(1) states that any disclosure will not fall under its protection if it is prohibited by any written law.

2. Section 11(1)(d) state that protection can be revoked if the "disclosure of improper conduct principally involves questioning the merits of government policy, including policy of a public body”.

3. Section 8 states that the whistleblower would be criminalised if he/she were to divulge the wrongdoing to another party, after invoking the protection the act confers, such as the press or an MP.

Amend these sections to allow for better whistleblower protection, allow freedom of the press, stop harassment of journalists, withdraw the suspension of The Edge and unblock Sarawak Report or risk the worsening global perception and flight of investors out of Malaysia.

Malaysians must start speaking up against corruption without fear. We cannot remain silent at the risk of abetting the crime of corruption.
We deserve a better government, one that genuinely places accountability and transparency at the heart of its administration.

Released by

Cynthia Gabriel
Executive Director