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Friday, January 8, 2016

Public institutions' independence put to test on 1MDB, people's fear of a cover-up

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysians are increasingly afraid that matters concerning 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) will be concealed from public knowledge, said Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru today.

Despite noting “some developments” in investigations into the firm, Steven said the Malaysian Bar was still worried about past attacks on the independence of government institutions that were involved in the probes.

“However, the Malaysian Bar remains very concerned over the events that had transpired and the attacks that took place on the institutions, and which may still persist. These institutions are undoubtedly critical to a functioning democracy and must not be undermined.

“We are also concerned about the rising public fear of a cover-up, and the ultimate outcome of the investigations,” he said in his speech at the ceremonial opening of Malaysia’s legal year 2016.

Earlier in his speech, Steven listed the reported interference and obstruction of investigations last year on allegations related to 1MDB and a fund transfer to the prime minister’s accounts, calling the purported interference “well-known and quite irrefutable”.

Among other things, he noted the abrupt removal of then-Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail; the disbanding of a special task force probing 1MDB; the delay of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) inquiry; the arrest or probe of officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC); as well as the aborted sudden transfer of two MACC senior officers to the Prime Minister’s Department.

“In all, these actions led to the irresistible public inference that the investigations into 1MDB were being curtailed. It has further caused irreparable harm to the standing of the affected institutions in the public eye.

“The intimidation and harassment suffered by them are widely seen as a subversion of the administration of justice,” he said.

Noting that the alleged interference had undermined and weakened these public institutions, Steven later said in his speech that the Malaysian Bar fully supported all institutions of the state that carry out their duties according to the law.

“We call upon all the public institutions — in this case the AGC, PAC, BNM and MACC — to assert their independence, perform their role under the law in a transparent manner, and not bow to any form of pressure, intimidation and harassment,” he said.

Observing growing expectation from the public for wrongdoings to be exposed and for wrongdoers to be held accountable regardless of who is involved, Steven said anything less than this would cause a “severe crisis of confidence in the administration of justice and the sanctity of the rule of law.”

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