PETALING JAYA, Feb 8 — The 30-month sentence imposed on Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli will have the effect of discouraging whistleblowers from coming forward and was unduly “harsh” according to Lawyers for Liberty.
The group’s executive director Erik Paulsen told Malay Mail that Rafizi was only carrying out his duty in exposing the alleged misuse of a soft loan by Tan Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil’s husband and National Feedlot Corporation chairman Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail.
“Despite Rafizi’s conviction being that of a technical offence, it stands as a blow to the government’s efforts against corruption.
“The sentence imposed on him is extremely harsh as Rafizi was only conducting his duties. Further the sentence can be seen as an act of ‘shooting the messenger’ as the bank officer involved was also handed the same sentence,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Sessions Court sentenced Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli to 30 months in jail for leaking banking details relating to the National Feedlot Corporation.
Former Public Bank clerk Johari Mohamad, who was charged with abetting Rafizi in the crime, was also sentenced to 30 months in jail.
Paulsen also said the harsh sentence would deter other potential whistleblowers from coming forward with information for fear of repercussions.
“Potential whistleblowers would be extremely cautious before they consider exposing any wrongdoings,” he said adding that it was unfortunate that those seeking to expose wrongdoings were themselves prosecuted.
PKR MP N. Surendran called the sentence a “black mark on the country’s history” and said the ruling had sullied the country’s reputation.
“The MP and the bank officer involved had exposed misappropriation but instead of hailing them as heroes, they are being jailed,” he said.
“This is awful… it is a sad day for Malaysia when those who take risks to expose crimes are the ones who are jailed while those guilty are roaming free.”
“A whistleblower should not be prosecuted for exposing a matter of public interest and it is unthinkable that they are being jailed, and with such a heavy sentence at that,” he said.
Malaysia does offer protection to whistleblowers under its Whistleblower Protection Act 2010.
However, critics have called the Act flawed as whistleblowers are only protected if they tip off enforcement agencies such as the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara and the Securities Commission.
Whistleblowing to anyone else including the media or even an elected representative will negate any protection provided by the Act.