PETALING JAYA: Whistleblowers should not be targeted and if Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki has nothing to hide, he should retract his letter of demand (LOD) against anti-graft activist Lalitha Kunaratnam.

MCA spokesperson Chan Quin Er said Azam, as a high-ranking senior civil servant, would prove to the public that he had nothing to hide if he decided to retract the letter in the interest of transparency and public accountability.

“As society inevitably steers towards openness with demands for transparency from government agencies and public services, investigative journalism plays an important role in society and holds the government accountable.

“Globally, the media is recognised as the fourth pillar of democracy, balancing the influence and keeping the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary in check.

“Lalitha was only doing her job by reporting on public knowledge, as all public-listed companies must publish and submit their annual reports, listing their largest shareholders, besides holding annual general meetings,” Chan said in a statement yesterday.

Since Azam would be summoned by the Securities Commission for an explanation, Chan said this would be an opportunity for the MACC chief commissioner to clear his name and quell any public doubts.

Chan also said that pursuing the LOD against Lalitha would only reflect poorly on Azam himself.

“This inadvertently portrays the anti-corruption enforcement agency which he represents as vindictive and flexing the muscles of government machinery to exert undue pressure to silence anyone or issues of public interest.

“If MACC is perceived as shrouding any questionable transactions or even wrongdoings into secrecy, the good work executed by other MACC staff in bringing corrupt practices to book will all be invalidated by this singular action,” she said.

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) also said Azam should not be going after whistleblowers.

“MACC is an agency tasked with protecting those who expose corruption, and Azam should not threaten anyone with legal action.

“Azam’s attempts to silence her smacks of grave intimidation and fear tactics completely unbecoming of a top graft-buster,” it said.

C4 said the impending lawsuit against Lalitha would only deter whistleblowers from exposing wrongdoing in future.

C4 reiterates its call for the reform of the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 (WPA 2010), which has continuously failed to adequately protect whistleblowers since it came into force over a decade ago.

It also said on Nov 17 last year, Azam had told the media that he was fully supportive of amendments to WPA 2010 to better protect whistleblowers.

“The only right cause of action for Azam now is to immediately withdraw his LOD and prove to the public that MACC genuinely advocates for whistleblower protection,” it added.

In the LOD, Azam had demanded that Lalitha issue a public apology within 14 days, delete the articles about Azam on portal Independent News Services and pay RM10mil in damages for tarnishing his reputation.

In a tweet on Thursday, Lalitha acknowledged that she had received the LOD and said “thanks”.