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Azam must go, civil groups maintain amid probes against PN leaders

They say the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's credibility is at stake.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli & Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Protesters hold placards during the #TangkapAzamBaki rally last January in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, calling for Azam Baki's removal from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Protesters hold placards during the #TangkapAzamBaki rally last January in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, calling for Azam Baki's removal from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Civil society groups and individuals who called for the resignation of Malaysia's top anti-graft official last year have remained firm in their stance, saying Azam Baki must go despite the ongoing investigations into opposition leaders including Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin Yassin. 

Azam, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), became embroiled in controversy over claims of conflict of interest in his ownership of shares.  

MACC under his leadership opened investigations this year into Muhyiddin and Tasek Gelugor MP Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

Muhyiddin, who was prime minister for 17 months between 2020 and 2021, was slapped with a total of seven charges related to the JanaWibawa initiative, a post-Covid-19 programme to help Bumiputera contractors.

Wan Saiful meanwhile was charged with soliciting and accepting RM6.9 million in bribes, also in relation to a JanaWibawa project.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said the charges did not mean that the people should forget Azam's case. 

"While MACC's probes into corruption cases are commendable, it will not be able to effectively carry out its mandate of investigating corruption in all sectors without walking the talk internally and ensuring that their staff, especially the leadership, implement their responsibilities with integrity," Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said. 
He also reiterated Suaram's call for Azam to resign or be suspended from his position with immediate effect. 

"Not doing this will not only jeopardise MACC’s integrity, but also invalidate the commitment that Anwar Ibrahim’s administration has asserted on multiple occasions to combating corruption," he said. 

Azam came under scrutiny over the alleged purchase in 2015 and 2016 of shares and warrants at two public-listed companies. 

He said these had been purchased by his brother using his share trading account, maintaining that he had committed no wrongdoing.

The issue was revealed by activist Lalitha Kunaratnam, against whom Azam filed a defamation suit which is slated for hearing in July. 

Nur Qyira Yusri, the founder of Undi18 who was involved in the Action Committee to Arrest Azam Baki, said all parties should continue demanding accountability. 

"This is especially the case as MACC has not yet been placed under Parliament," she said. 

"At the very least, review the case," she added. 

The committee had organised a gathering in the capital city last year to call for Azam's resignation and arrest. 

Other members included Bersih, the National Patriots Association, and Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia, in addition to several political parties. 

During the general election campaign last year, PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli vowed to take action against Azam should Pakatan Harapan come to power.

"Saturday we vote. After we win the elections, we will look for Azam Baki," Rafizi, the current minister for economy, said at a ceramah in Johor Bahru.

The MACC anti-corruption advisory board, after seeking Azam's explanation, said no conflict of interest was found in the purchase of the shares.

The Securities Commission (SC) meanwhile said Azam had not breached any laws. 

"The SC has concluded its inquiry and based on the evidence gathered, the SC is not able to conclusively establish that a breach under Section 25(4) of Sicda has occurred," the market regulator said in a statement, referring to the Securities Central Depository Act 1991.

Academic Edmund Terence Gomez, who resigned from the MACC panel in protest against Azam, said his stance had not changed.

"I have not changed my stand on him," he said. "He has to go if MACC is to have any credibility." 

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