Don’t shoot the messenger, investigate the message first

THE authorities should investigate abuse of power claims made by Judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer instead of taking action against him.

“There should no longer be delays in investigating the allegations. We also call for Hamid to be granted his right to be heard.

“The judiciary must clarify its stance on whistleblowing to ensure that potential whistleblowers are not undeterred, even if it appears to be an attempt at scandalising the sanctity of the institution.

“Punitive action ought to be exercised only when investigations show mala fide or ill intentions on the part of accuser. This detestable episode only illustrates that it is time for the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 to be given the improvements needed,” said Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center), in a statement.

Recently, the Judges’ Ethics Committee (JEC) suspended Hamid until Aug 27, when he is due to retire. The Court of Appeal judge sent shockwaves across the nation when he filed an affidavit in February 2019, claiming that several members of the bench were engaged in corrupt act and abuse of power.

Hamid Sultan Abu Backer

The-then Pakatan Harapan Government mooted the idea to establish a royal commission on inquiry (RCI) to investigate the matter but did not act on it.

In a memoir recently written by former Attorney-General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, the latter alleged that the RCI did not materialise as the Government received objections from a number of sitting and retired judges.

Touching on Hamid’s fate, C4 said it was upset with what befell Hamid, adding that future whistleblowers would be less inclined to come forward due to fears of repercussions.

“This suspension also effectively ends Hamid’s judicial career. Despite his lawyer requesting the JEC to adjourn the hearing due to ill health and a hearing on Friday, they continued anyway without his presence.

“According to the rules of natural justice, every litigant must be given the right to be heard. This right was overlooked by the JEC and not afforded to Hamid,” it stated.

On that note, C4 said that Hamid’s fate showed the public on how whistleblowers receive little protection from the authorities, despite him showing courage to go public on claims of judicial misconduct by certain members of the bench.

It added that Hamid would have known the backlash he would receive for going public but the sheer lack of protection given to the former is astounding.

“Hamid is being used and be made an example to others who may do the same. It also shows that the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 is essentially toothless in its overriding purpose to protect whistleblowers, as it does not cover these circumstances,” C4 Center remarked.

The anti-grant non-governmental organisation (NGO) then urged the Government to investigate Hamid’s allegations and not sweep the matter under the carpet.

“The judiciary is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy and all efforts must be taken to defend its integrity and independence,” it remarked. – Feb 6, 2021.

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