There's no denying that Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki has many loyal friends, a number of whom have come out to publicly vouch for his good character.
For instance, through a press statement this week, all three of his deputy commissioners, claiming to speak for the entire MACC workforce, came out in support of Azam's leadership and denounced the wrongdoing allegations against him as "motivated by the politics of revenge to tarnish the image and credibility of the MACC".
MACC Advisory Board chairman, Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang, in the board's press conference on Jan 5, spoke firmly and unequivocally of not finding any case for criminal conduct or conflict of interest against Azam. The rest of the board claimed that it is Abu Zahar's personal opinion; and, Abu Zahar now claims that his message was wrongly reported by the press — even though the entire press conference was broadcast live for anyone to follow and interpret for themselves.
In his protestations of innocence, and in his friends' endorsement of his good character, Azam is really no different from any other person who has been accused of wrongdoing, as most people have friends and family who love them enough to speak up for them.
How many people have been dragged away from the bosom of their family, handcuffed, put in a gaudy jumpsuit and thrown into a lockup, despite their cries and pleas of innocence? And how many were released just because there was someone to vouch for their character? To be fair, in Azam's case, a police report on the matter was not made until after Abu Zahar's first press conference.
So, the police and the Securities Commission must be given time to conduct their investigations. However, as senior law enforcement officers, Azam's deputies should well know that the law has its processes, and the friends and family of any accused will simply have to be patient and wait for justice to take its course.
As the next-in-line of responsibility at MACC, the deputies should have stayed above the fray instead of jumping into it. Further, in dismissing the chorus of public alarm that followed these recent revelations as merely politically-driven character assassination, they disrespect the common man's concern in the matter and the common man's investment in MACC's integrity.
In the greater scheme of crime or misconduct, Azam's alleged wrongdoing, as far as is currently known, may be minor – if not for the fact that, as the head of MACC, his conduct is expected to be above reproach.
The common man already suffers from the impression that in this country there are two sets of rules: one for the common folk, and one for the monied and powerful. So, as the rest of MACC goes about its sacred duty of investigating and arresting allegedly corrupt citizens, the juxtaposition between the common alleged-wrongdoer and the titled alleged-wrongdoer is not lost on the common man, who smirks cynically and bitterly.
In its press conference yesterday, the Special Committee on Corruption opined that Azam ought to take a leave of absence so that the investigators can do their jobs. This newspaper concurs.
For as long as Azam's name is not cleared, his presence at the helm contaminates MACC's work. Let the investigators prove him right or wrong, without fear or favour.