Monday, June 17

Does the end justify the means?


HEAD OR TAIL: Is the fate of a whistle blower to be decided by the toss of a coin?

“RAFIZI is not a messenger.”

I nearly choked on my coffee when a senior lawyer said this to me over a cuppa one Sunday morning.

He was quick to clarify: “He does not qualify himself as whistleblower in Malaysia. The Whistleblower Act cannot protect Rafizi.”

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli first exposed the financial scandal of National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), a firm running the Federal government’s cattle farming project, linked to the family of former Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, a couple of years back.

And over the past two years, Malaysians had seen the exposé of NFC’s financial mismanagement  – one after another.

As soon as NFC defended the alleged mismanagement, Rafizi was able to expose yet more scandals.

Rafizi, a trained accountant, had in hand facts and evidence convincing enough for Malaysians to believe in all his allegations against NFC.

Shahrizat was cornered into explaining the alleged financial mismanagement, corruption and misappropriation of funds by NFC which eventually forced her to resign her ministerial post.

Rafizi had blown the whistle. He had performed his “national service” for the “national good” – and lest we forget, so had former Public Bank employee Johari Mohamad who had acted in the same spirit.

Both had taken personal risks for the national good and while Rafizi was seen as championing the fight against corporate mismanagement, it was not so for his informer, Johari, who faced tremendous pressure and eventually had to resign from the bank.

By exposing the NFC scandals, Rafizi has undoubtedly raised his profile among the young politicians not only in PR but also among many young Malaysians who may not have taken side in their political stance.

But did Rafizi think he would get away with it? When he disclosed four customer-profile documents to a media consultant and a journalist, did he know he was violating the Banking and Financial Institution Act (BAFIA)?

It would be illogical for him to claim ignorance, being a trained accountant and a politician.

Rafizi was eventually charged on August 1 under BAFIA but at what cost for BN?

It is still about perception, public perception.

Rafizi is a messenger in the eyes of the public – a hero who has revealed to the public alleged dishonest or illegal activities in a government agency.

The public perceive it as injustice when he was handcuffed following arrest at his home before being taken to court while the man whom he had exposed for alleged corruption in the RM250 million cattle farming scandal, NFC chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Ismail, was uncuffed as he walked into the court.

They are the messengers. And there are cries of “don’t shoot the messengers” out there just as there is the first cry in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

In another play – Antony and Cleopatra – by the Barb of Avon, Cleopatra threatened to treat the messenger’s eyes as balls when told Antony had married another.

The public’s response to the BAFIA charge is the same as that of the messenger: “Gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match.”

The charge against Rafizi who exposed the scandals and saved the nation of millions of ringgit, made no match.

Public opinion is that he is being victimised for being a member of the opposition and this despite knowing that he did not use “clean means” to do what he did.

The perception is that if you “snitch”, the government will come after you.

This has put the Whistleblower Protection Act under greater scrutiny, and probably also made Rafizi the first casualty of the Act.

The charge has undoubtedly impacted negatively on the perception of the government’s anti-corruption efforts.

Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah had said: “I think this case is going to put the Whistleblower Act under closer scrutiny because the Act is supposed to protect whistleblowers in many areas – from civil and criminal – especially against detrimental practices.”

The reality is Rafizi has broken the law to champion an issue for the national good. But does one right make a wrong right? Can one commit one crime to solve another crime?

The end justifies the means. Among scholars, this is the impression of what Machiavelli meant – given that an end is profitable enough, any means, even a very immoral one, is justifiable.

A closer look at the following line seems to suggest it is more psychological than ethical: In the actions of all men, and especially of princes, where there is no court to appeal to, one looks to the end. So let the prince win and maintain his state: the means will always be judged honorable, and will be praised by everyone. – The Prince

What is your take on it? It would be nice to give it some thought.

But now, the question being asked in kopitiam across the country is does the end justify the means? Is Whistle Blowers Act effective?