It is alarming to discover that many of the investigations on cases of bribery and corruption carried out by the MACC come to nought when prosecution witnesses turn renegade. What this means is that the witnesses who were sympathetic to the prosecution’s case have gone back on their word or even police statements, and now refuse to cooperate. They are declared as hostile or unfavourable witnessess who abort the course of justice being served in and by the courts.
What the public see as a clear case of corruption is thrown out by the judge for lack of evidence and not being proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The hostile witness himself may be charged and tried for perjury, found guilty and served a jail sentence while the real perpetrator of corruption – the “big fish” with money to buy himself anything or out of anything - gets away scot free. The irony is that these turncoat witnesses would most likely have been intimidated, threatened or bribed for them to change their tune – a double jeopardy in the fight for justice!
The call for the MACC to be given prosecution rights will not do much in the fight against corruption, if after their rigorous investigations justice is aborted in the courts when their witnesses turn hostile. Whether prosecution lies with the AG as it now is or with the MACC, what must be looked into immediately is the strict formulation and enforcement of the Witnesses Act.
Loopholes that allow all and sundry to escape the law and make a mockery of justice must be plugged and a new precedence set. The nation’s lawmakers must be bold and debate at the highest levels the possibility of introducing new clauses that truly protect society against its unscrupulous citizens. For instance, it could be enacted that sworn written statements made at the beginning of an investigation can be used to corroborate evidence given in court. In this way a witness – prosecution or defense - is held to his word and can be examined and cross-examined on an outstanding piece of evidence.
Laws are man-made and if there is enough justification to modify them in the interest of society, there must be clear directions in their reformulation. While the argument that it is also the right of the individual citizen to be protected by the law holds water, one must be able to weigh more logically the ramifications of a justice system gone awry or the national anti-corruption agency losing its credibility.
The argument that witnesses may give evidence to investigating officers under duress and their sworn statements abused by counsel does not really hold water when these same people face worse intimidations by parties serving only their own selfish interests or that of the underworld. When witnesses are bribed and threatened to change their stance, do our honourable lawyers and judges just stand aside to give way to the forces of unlawfulness that are causing untold damage to society?
SPRM guna sms 'Frenz of MACC' salur maklumat