Whistleblowing and corruption: The Case of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

In Theodore Roosevelt’s 1906 “The man with the Muck-rake” speech, he emphasises that every evil practise whether in politics, business or social life should be exposed no matter the status of those exposed (Benkler, Y 2011, p. 2). This is where whistleblowing comes in, while most governmental forces see whistleblowing purely as terrorism and a threat to national security I see it in a different light.

For me whistleblowing has positive aspects especially in regards to freedom of information, and the media’s responsibly to inform citizens about issue that may affect them. Here whistle-blowers seek to expose wrongdoing, persecuting the evil practises that Roosevelt talked about.

On the 23rd of September 2015, whistle-blower Khairuddin Abu Hassan, former vice-head of the Batu Kawan division of the ruling party of United Malays National Organization (UMNO), was detained under allegations of breaching national security, defense and terrorism. He has been arrested under the Security Offences Special Measures Act (SOSMA), which replaced Malaysia’s Internal Security Act in April this year.

It has been said that Hassan submitted reports that sought to expose the corruption of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Berhad), the state-owned investment company. The reports evidence to support Hassan’s allegations of money-laundering involving 1MDB and the Prime Minister (McKenzie, N & Baker, R & Garnaut, J 2015).

Rather than pursuing said matters through the criminal system, the Malaysian authorities have been harassing, silencing and locking up those who demand accountabilities using a number of laws including:

  • Sabotage the state (section 124L of the Penal Code
  • Sabotage (section 124K of the Penal Code)
  • Printing Presses and Publications Act
  • Peaceful Assembly Act

If found guilty under section 124 Hassan could face life imprisonment, due to conducting activities that “threaten parliamentary democracy”; not to mention that the SOSMA act fails to meet international human rights standards, by allowing police to detain suspects incommunicado for 48 hours, detention and no access to courts for up to 28 days not to mention the possibility of torture (McKenzie, N & Baker, R 2015).

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In fact the Malaysian Prime Minister shut down two media outlets The Edge Financial Daily and The Edge Weekly was suspended for 3 months earlier this year for their reporting of the 1MDB scandal, which authorities said was “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security or public and national interest” (Amnesty International 2015).

Wikileaks has been a target for a suppression order to withhold the documentation as it linked executives of two Australian subsidiaries of the Reserve Bank, to paying bribes to foreign banking officials in order to win banknote-printing contracts in Malaysia, Indonesia and Nepal (Khatchadourian 2010). Here the Australian government seeks to protect the reputations of the foreign politicians, which might be damaged in the even of a reveal.

Claiming that publication of the names of the leaders in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam would be unnecessarily damaging to Australia’s “national security” and “international relations”(Gaurnaut 2015).

Here it is not an issue about the case more to with the why the international bodies in charge of anti-corruption have yet failed to expose the full story of the Reserve Bank Bribery and corruption scandals. It would seem that the government is conducting “selective prosecution”, further emphasizing the difficulty in the digital era to balance a country’s national security and diplomatic interest against the public’s right to know (Amnesty International 2015).

References:

McKenzie, N & Baker, R & Garnaut, J 2015, Bribery scandal linked to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, accessed 5 October 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/national/bribery-scandal-linked-to-malaysian-prime-minister-najib-razak-20150713-gib8nr

McKenzie, N & Baker, R 2015, WikiLeaks attacked by judge over corruption case, accessed 5 October 2015,

http://www.smh.com.au/national/wikileaks-attacked-by-judge-over-corruption-case-20150714-gic594.html

Gaurnaut J 2015 Abbott government battles to protect its mates in the name of security, accessed 6 October 2015,

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/abbott-government-battles-to-protect-its-mates-in-the-name-of-security-20150714-gica1y.html

Khatchadourian, R 2010, No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency, accessed 6 October 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/no-secrets

Amnesty International 2015, Urgent Action: Free Politician Held For Exposing Corruption, accessed 5 October 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/…/mde120112014en.pdf

Benkler, Y 2011, ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, pp. 1-33

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