KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — Expressing concern that the recent death of Teoh Beng Hock is a sign that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has gone “rogue”, senior Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said that nothing should be spared in the effort to find out the reason behind the death of the DAP political aide.
Tengku Razaleigh also hit out at the MACC for investigating minor cases while ignoring major examples of graft.
He said that Malaysians no longer feel safe or secure if mere witnesses called in to give evidence to a graft busting agency could be found dead the next day. “I feel it is very bad for a country like this. We have been independent for 50 years. Must people called up for queries end up in a coffin?” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Teoh was the political aide to DAP state assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah.
Teoh was called in last Wednesday to assist the MACC in its investigations into alleged misuse of funds by his boss. He was found dead the next day, sprawled on the roof of the adjacent building to the MACC headquarters in Shah Alam.
Police are now probing his death and the Cabinet is expected to discuss widespread calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy.
Tengku Razaleigh said calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Teoh’s suspicious death would be of no use if the government does not follow through on its suggestions, pointing out that the government had ignored the recommendations of previous royal commissions such as the one that investigated the V.K. Lingam case of alleged judge fixing and on improving the police force.
He even likened the sidelining of previous royal commissions to “insulting the King.”
The former finance minister also spoke out against the performance of the MACC, pointing out that it has not been as effective as its counterpart in Hong Kong at wiping out the corruption scourge.
He hit out at the commission for allegedly going after potentially minor offences but ignoring the major ones, saying that the current MACC model needs to be reviewed.
“This is a question of death you know. People want to know. I want to know. How could it happen? To a witness, who is going to give evidence and he is not even a suspect over the spending of RM2,400. Some people with millions of dollars, they get away with it and are not called for investigation.”
The following is a transcript of TMI’s conversation with Ku Li.
TMI: I understand you have some concerns about the recent death of Teoh Beng Hock who was found dead outside the MACC headquarters.
Ku Li: Yes. Why should anybody who is called for assistance into investigations or is held in the custody of the MACC die? There is no reason. I am not saying they are responsible for the death. That is subject to investigation. Can’t they look after these people to ensure nothing happens to them? Must it happen like this all the time?
TMI: Do you agree with the calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry?
Ku Li: That seems to be thinking of a lot of people. That may not necessarily be the best thing to do under the circumstance. You look at the previous royal commissions — on the police, on the Lingam tape. It leads us nowhere and the government doesn’t implement all the recommendations even though it was formed in the name of the King. I think it’s like insulting the King, not to implement those decisions. People took the trouble to give their views during the hearings. These are people of credible standing who spent their time and energy to get to the bottom of problems. But the government just ignores the recommendations. I hope if they set up a Royal Commission on Mr Teoh’s death, they should dig up everything and leave no stone unturned so we can resolve this problem and make people really happy and satisfied but the government must implement what the Royal Commission puts up. It depends on the composition of the commission — who they pick and select. It must be people of unblemished character so that people do not doubt their integrity. This incident has brought about a lot of unhappiness in the country. People don’t feel secure, people don’t feel safe. People feel they are not protected if a man who is not a suspect, is called to give evidence to the MACC is found dead the next day, I feel it is very bad for a country like this. We have been independent for 50 years. Must people called up for queries end up in a coffin? I don’t think that is what the government wants or what the people want. It’s not very good for the country.
TMI: What changes do you recommend for the MACC? There have been allegations that MACC is being used as a tool to put down political rivals.
Ku Li: That is always the accusation of the opposition. But let me put it to you this way. It depends on how you read the MACC and how it is implemented. Also there are people running the MACC. Some may employ rough tactics so that they take over control of what they are supposed to do. I thought when the former prime minister wanted to amend the previous law on anti-corruption, he was going to base it purely on the Hong Kong model and I am very attracted to the Hong Kong model if not even to the Australian model.
TMI: Which aspects of the Hong Kong model are you attracted to?
Ku Li: Well, it is more or less the same except that you make it very independent and they were successful in fighting corruption in Hong Kong which was really rife in those days and after the inception of the anti-corruption law in Hong Kong and setting up the machinery to implement those laws, you see that there is minimal or even talk about corruption in Hong Kong. So it has borne fruit. I thought that our government would take that model in toto to implement here and plus whatever other new mechanisms that could be put in place to really stop the rot that is damaging our society. But obviously it is not. And now you see with this death of Mr Teoh, obviously the rogue has taken over the role of controlling all these things which I think is not right.
TMI: Do you think the MACC should be made answerable to Parliament rather than the prime minister’s office?
Ku Li: Well it is very difficult for me to say. It must be independent, whether it is Parliament or whatever, I don’t know. But we have to relook at the whole model.
TMI: Are you satisfied with the way the investigations have gone so far? So far, only the police have conducted investigations.
Ku Li: I think it is the right thing to do. Now, you are demanding for a Royal Commission and if it is ever set up then they should be neutral, independent and like I said, they should dig up everything and leave no stone unturned. The scope of the investigation is very important. Set up Royal Commission, a lot of hoo-ha and after some time, it dies down, nobody cares and I don’t think it should be the case. This is a question of death you know. People want to know. I want to know. How could it happen? To a witness, who is going to give evidence and he is not even a suspect over the spending of RM2,400. Some people with millions of dollars, they get away with it and are not called for investigation.
TMI: Do you share the sense of unhappiness that certain Barisan Nasional personalities are not investigated by MACC but they are investigating these Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen?
Ku Li: That’s why I mentioned just now, some people get away with it. Even people accused of amassing funds or fortunes to the tune of billions of dollars. These people are not investigated although accused. But in this instance, it is over RM2,400 for the purchase of flags or buntings.