The Malaysian government cannot yet provide an assurance of absolute immunity to the two whistle-blowers in the V.K. Lingam tape scandal, if they decide to come forward, Internet news portal Malaysiakini.com reported yesterday.
It quoted de-facto law minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, well-known for his 'denials' and 'the media misquoted me' excuses, that the cabinet has yet to make any decision to accord such protection pending completion of the three-member (I would add powerless) panel's investigation.
Nazri had earlier told the press that he would ask the cabinet to give protection to the whistle-blowers. The cabinet meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad (Badawi). In other words, Nazri failed to convince the cabinet. Too bad.
Last Sunday, Nazri said that there was a Witness Protection Act to protect informants, when such a law does not exist.
Well, the Malaysian cabinet is really very slow in making a decision on the witness protection programme.
Six years ago, to be exact 16 April, 2001 the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the government "is considering" a new law to better protect witnesses of crimes. He said some witnesses were reported to have been threatened against testifying in court.
"In view of this, the Government feels a law should be in place to ensure witnesses are given adequate protection. The government is willing to consider such a proposal," Dr Mahathir said.
The then de-facto law minister Dr Rais Yatim was very eager to introduce the law to protect witnesses. However, in 2004 he was made Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister and the proposal was left to his successor Radzi Sheikh Ahmad (now Home Affairs Minister) and now to Nazri.
The proposed law, according to the then Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Mohamad Jamil Johari, was expected to be similar to that of the United States witness protection programme.
That was in 2001. Now we are nearing the end of 2007. where is the Witness Protection Act?