Sandra Rajoo brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Is this BN’s transformation plan?

After the March 2008 elections, the BN government, having been trounced, came down a notch or two from its government-is-always-right position. It planned to be more mindful of its words and actions. But as recent events indicate, very little has changed. Human rights abuses, arrogant behaviour, abuse of power and corruption show the status quo is here to stay. The establishment has yet to come down from its high horse.

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The Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 is supposed to protect whistleblowers.  But this protection was not extended to Irene Fernandez, Tenaganita’s executive director, when she exposed the wrongdoings of people in power. The authorities chose to investigate her rather than her reports on human rights abuses on migrants by authorities.

Ms Fernadez is unwavering in her resolve, and has accused authorities of going all out to “silence those who voice out the rights of others”. Human trafficking reports have also been largely ignored, according to Abdul Aziz Ismail of the Anti Human Trafficking Council Selangor. 30 reports lodged with the police and MACC have been met with stone-cold silence.

Under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, ‘A person may make a disclosure of improper conduct to any enforcement agency based on his reasonable belief that any person has engaged, is engaging or is preparing to engage in improper conduct’. Under Section 7 (1), the whistleblower is guaranteed ‘(a) protection of confidential information; (b) immunity from civil and criminal action; and (c) protection against detrimental action’.

Why was Ms Fernandez not extended this protection? This case sends a note of caution to all potential whistleblowers: Be prepared to be persecuted and prosecuted.

Persecution also for those who stand up for truth and justice

Truth and justice have been relegated to the bottom of our system’s priority list. Truth is only what the boss says.  MCA Wanita chief Kian Sit Har had this reality thrown into her face when she was vilified by her own party for her participation in Bersih 3.0 during which she made clear her stand on clean and fair elections. Malacca’s Chief Minister wants her to step down and her own boss has ‘poured scorn’ on her. But Kian is standing firm. Saying that politicians should “serve the people”, she reaffirms her fight for truth and fair play, no matter which party proposes it. People on both sides of the political divide should take a leaf out of her book.

Another case of shooting the messenger?

Did the Bar Council prejudge the issues when it passed its EGM’s 12 resolutions on the 28 April Bersih rally? The raging debate on the impartiality of the Council has captured the imagination of the public, the government and lawyers alike. The crux of the dispute seems to be over who were more violent, the demonstrators or the police, and whether blame and condemnation were correctly apportioned to these two parties. The 80 monitors deployed by the Bar during the rally also came under scrutiny. Ex-Bar councillor Roger Tan who criticised the Bar, and a group of 8 lawyers who supported it, have been trading arguments over the resolutions. The victor will be determined by one’s conscience.

A demonstration of harassment

Persecution apparently is not the prerogative of only the powers that be. Following in the authorities’ footsteps is the Kuala Lumpur Petty Traders Action Council whose members have been harassing Datuk Ambiga at her home. They have no qualms about going ahead with their plans to set up a mini ‘pasar malam’ in Datuk Ambiga’s neighbourhood despite KL City Hall’s (DBKL) refusal to grant them a permit for obvious reasons. Having already defaced the roads in the area with yellow paint, with which they demarcated trading lots, the traders are all set to ‘vandalise’ the vicinity further with their antics. However, DBKL rose above the fray when it worked “late into the night” to clear the yellow lines. Suffice to say its efforts were much appreciated by Ambiga and her neighbours.

The inaction of the authorities over the blatant harassment of individuals is not something we haven’t seen before. Think Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the Seksualiti Merdeka coalition.

Suing is the way to go

Before you get sued, pre-empt the move by counter-suing. In this respect, the government is one step ahead of Datuk Ambiga. It is suing the Bersih 2.0 steering committee for RM122,000, claiming 15 vehicles were damaged during the protest. The move may be condemned all round, but there’s no stopping people once the wheels have been set in motion.

In the case of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), the company is planning to sue Public Bank for ‘leaking’ information which it considered detrimental to its reputation. It accused the bank of making a confidentiality and security breach which resulted in its banking information and business procedures being exposed by PKR’s Rafizi Ramli. PKR however claims NFC is “hunting down” whistle-blowers who led to the revelation of the RM250 million federal loan abuse.

“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

– Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive...