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Activists, groups who called for Azam's removal tight-lipped after reappointment as MACC chief

Politicians who spoke against Azam Baki's handling of the agency ahead of last year's election have also remained silent.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
Protesters attend the #TangkapAzamBaki rally calling for the removal of Azam Baki as Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Jan 22, 2022.
Protesters attend the #TangkapAzamBaki rally calling for the removal of Azam Baki as Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Jan 22, 2022.

A number of activists and pressure groups which previously called for the resignation of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Azam Baki have remained mum following his reappointment to the position for another year. 

When contacted by MalaysiaNow for a response, NGOs, activists and politicians either declined to comment or did not answer their phones. 

These include individuals who had attended the #TangkapAzamBaki rally in Kuala Lumpur last January, following the controversy over claims of conflict of interest in his ownership of shares.

Azam, who was appointed as MACC chief in March 2020, was reappointed for another year effective May 12.

Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali said Azam's reappointment had received the consent of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah. 

The news received no response from politicians who had spoken against Azam's handling of MACC ahead of the general election last year, including Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli.

Rafizi, in his campaign for the election, had warned that he would "look for" Azam if Pakatan Harapan came to power, condemning what he called a raid by MACC at Invoke Solutions, the PKR-linked company he heads.  

"Saturday we vote. After we win the election, we will look for Azam Baki," he said at a campaign event in Johor Bahru.

He later backed down from his warning, denying any move on his part to threaten the anti-graft chief. 

MPs who were called up by the police for participating in the #TangkapAzamBaki rally have yet to respond to news of Azam's reappointment either, including Fahmi Fadzil, Maria Chin Abdullah, Maszlee Malik and Teresa Kok.

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

MACC under his leadership opened investigations this year into Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin Yassin and Bersatu's Tasek Gelugor MP Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

It also froze several bank accounts belonging to Bersatu in relation to the alleged misappropriation of funds used by the government when the country was dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Azam began his career at the anti-graft body in 1984, when it was known as the Anti-Corruption Agency.

He has held the position of MACC chief under three administrations, led by Muhyiddin, Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Anwar Ibrahim.

Thomas Fann, chairman of electoral watchdog Bersih, said Anwar had missed a golden opportunity to escape from the convention of changing the MACC head each time there is a change of government. 

He said the extension of Azam's tenure only reinforced the fact that the prime minister had absolute discretion over the appointment process. 

"Because of this, there are accusations by some that MACC is not independent and is used against political opponents," he told MalaysiaNow. 

He added that Anwar should have referred the appointment process to the parliamentary select committee, which he said would also eliminate the perception of interference by the prime minister in MACC's work.