Saturday, January 22, 2022

Expert tells why Azam’s accuser is no whistleblower

UK-based criminologist Kassim Noor Mohamed also says the MACC chief did the right thing to clear his name by suing Lalitha Kunaratnam.

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An expert in criminology has cautioned against calling activist Lalitha Kunaratnam a whistleblower, saying she does not qualify as one in the wake of several blog articles claiming to reveal information about the ownership of shares by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Azam Baki.

Kassim Noor Mohamed, a former senior customs officer with 20 years of enforcement and intelligence experience, said the information shared by Lalitha was available in the public domain and accessible to all.

“The information that was revealed concerning the shares was freely available,” Kassim, who is now based in the UK where he has lectured on criminal justice at various universities for more than a decade, told MalaysiaNow.

“Nothing was hidden. I do not think she fulfils the criteria for a whistleblower.”

He added that according to legal definitions, Lalitha had voluntarily revealed her identity when she decided not to report the alleged wrongdoings to the authorities and instead publicised them in the online media.

Following this, he said, the articles were shared on a number of platforms including social media, and with them her identity.

Azam has denied the claims made by Lalitha, who is linked to C4 Center, a local NGO led by activist Cynthia Gabriel.

The allegations were repeated by Cynthia’s fellow director at C4 Center, Edmund Terence Gomez, who also resigned from MACC’s consultative panel.

Azam’s right to sue

On Wednesday, Azam slapped Lalitha with a RM10 million defamation suit and demanded a public apology, after she failed to respond to a letter of demand sent by lawyers.

Azam’s move to fight the allegations and clear his name in court drew criticism from some quarters who argued that it was an attempt to silence free speech.

But Kassim said it was within Azam’s rights to file the suit against Lalitha.

“The same goes for her,” he added. “If she feels that Azam has slandered her, she can sue him too.”

He also said that Lalitha should not be reluctant to report the matter to the MACC, brushing off fears that the anti-graft agency would side with Azam.

He said while the accusations involve Azam, MACC would still conduct a professional investigation without siding with anyone.

“Take the 1MDB case for example. It was a complicated case and MACC was under pressure from many quarters.

“As an independent institution, the MACC will ensure that every claim is investigated and scrutinise all of the evidence to decide on the appropriate action,” said Kassim, who has conducted extensive research into transnational and corporate crime as well as Asian organised crime groups.

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