MORE FISHING RODS NEEDED TO TOW SCORPENE AWAY
The fishing expedition continues with the Registrar of Societies (“RoS”) and Royal Malaysian Police lending their baits to the government taskforce in hauling Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd (“SUARAM”) to the court of law.
On 19th September 2012, the RoS and the Royal Malaysian Police visited SUARAM’s office in an intended inspection on SUARAM. However, the team led by one Ganesh of RoS had to return empty handed upon being notified that SUARAM is a registered private limited company and is not a society under the purview of the RoS.
A “society” as defined in S2 of the Societies Act 1966 expressly excludes a company registered under any written law relating to companies (the Companies Act 1965) for the time being in force in Malaysia. It is by this reason that the Registrar of Societies has no jurisdiction to perform an inspection on SUARAM, unlike the CCM whereby SUARAM has provided full cooperation since early July 2012.
SUARAM views this entire orchestra kicked off by the government since 3rd July 2012 as a concerted move to kill freedom of association and all other related freedoms once and for all. As leading human rights defenders in Malaysia, we strongly call upon the government to end all harassment and immediately cease its unbecoming perversion of its civil servants.
Overzealous framing of charges against SUARAM
Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, Ismail Sabri Yaakob had on numerous occasions spilled the beans at unprecedented frequent press conferences held by his Ministry and the CCM to rebut public reviews on the orchestra.
It is pertinent to note that the CCM had only commenced its investigation on SUARAM on 10th September 2012. The hotchpotch planned public persecution of SUARAM can be seen in the following:-
i. On 3rd September 2012, the Minister announced to the public that SUARAM’s accounts are “highly suspicious” and that 99.4% of SUARAM’s activities are “money collecting”
ii. On 10th September 2012, the Minister announced to the public that CCM will press charges against SUARAM in 2 weeks’ time.
iii. On 12th September 2012, 6 government agencies (the Home Ministry, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the CCM, the RoS and Bank Negara) convened a meeting at the CCM’s office to determine the jurisdiction of respective agencies and possible actions to be taken against SUARAM. The agencies contemplated to set up a task force to persecute SUARAM.
iv. Evident from the outcome of the above meeting, and a subsequent meeting between the RoS and Bank Negara, a legal study would be conducted to determine possible ways to take actions against unregistered organisations. SUARAM believes the supposed inspection by the RoS together with the police on 19th September 2012 was an indication of a possible outcome from the taskforce meeting.
v. On 18th September 2012, the Minister announced to the public that his team is building a case premised on SUARAM’s alleged “confusing” accounts. When pressed further to elaborate on his allegation, he said “…All kinds of things… they (SUARAM) do one thing and report another…” He also confirmed that at least one charge under Section 364(2) of the Companies Act 1965 will be used against SUARAM. The Minister had also submitted CCM’s investigation papers (“IPs”) to the Attorney General’s Chambers on even date despite the fact that SUARAM’s Chairman, K. Arumugam’s scheduled investigation on 19th September 2012.
It is clear that a decision has already been made even before investigations started. Suffice to say that the investigations carried out so far carries no other purpose but to merely show that the CCM is performing a role play for the orchestra.
Minister’s overreaching powers
SUARAM questions the integrity and powers displayed by the Minister’s constant hovering above the Registrar of Companies and the Attorney General throughout the investigations. We note with concern that the Minister, may have usurped the powers of the Registrar and the Attorney General and thus placed himself in an embarrassing position.
This is compounded by a report by BERNAMA dated 19th September 2012 whereby Deputy Solicitor-General II, Tun Majid Tun Hamzah confirmed that the IPs submitted by the CCM was incomplete for the Attorney General to draft the charges.
The unusual steadfast response from the Minister and the CCM upon complaints from GONGOs and UMNO spoke highly of the government’s priority to silent dissent and whistleblowers. Instead of embarking on a fishing expedition, the government should vigorously investigate and expose all findings from the Scorpene scandal to the public in the same manner they had on SUARAM. This is the only way for the government to salvage its dented reputation and re-claim the confidence of tax payers.
Regardless of the government’s next move, SUARAM reaffirms its full cooperation to the taskforce, in accordance to the law, but urges the government and its agencies to exercise extreme care when dealing with fundamental freedoms and rights of its people lest the nation forgets what democracy means.