Malaysian heads Fiji Anti-Corruption Commission?

(1) Radio New Zealand International

Head of Fiji’s Independent Commission against Corruption to remain head of LAWASIA

Posted at 01:33 on 26 May, 2007 UTC

The newly appointed commissioner of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption , Mah Weng Kwai of Malaysia, says he will remain the president of the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific.

As well, Mr Kwai has told the Fiji Times he will maintain his law practice in Kuala Lumpur.

He says he did not apply for the job but was offered it and accepted because of concern about allegations of corruption.

Mr Mah says he deems his appointment valid and questions about the validity of the commission would be best dealt with by the courts.

He says there is a need for foreigners to take up the reigns at the anti-corruption commission because they are not connected to local politics.

(2) Fiji Times

Front page / News

I didnt apply, says new FICAC chairman

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The new commissioner of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, Mah Weng Kwai, said he did not apply for the post but was instead asked by interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to take up the post.

Speaking from Tel Aviv, in Israel, yesterday, Mr Kwai, who is president of Lawasia, said his appointment to the commission was in his personal capacity and had nothing to do with the regional legal body he headed, nor did it compromise Lawasia.

He was, however, wary of the fact that he headed Lawasia and governed its interests in the Asia and Pacific region.

“I recognise the role played by Lawasia in the Asia-Pacific region. My thinking is there is a need for a response to allegations of corruption and if FICAC is one way for it to be done, then it doesnt compromise my position in Lawasia,” Mr Kwai said.

He said there was a distinction between Lawasia and his appointment to the commission because it was a personal matter.

Mr Kwai said remuneration was yet to be discussed with Mr Sayed-Khaiyum and that he did not expect to draw much from it.

He said he first met Mr Sayed-Khaiyum during a Lawasia observer mission to Fiji earlier this year and was later asked if he wanted he job.

He (Mr Sayed-Khaiyum) has been a member of Lawasia. Ive known of him as a lawyer. I first met him during our observer mission to Fiji earlier this year.

He said his role as commissioner would be as supervisor and he would not be coming to Fiji for long periods of time.

He will maintain his role as president of Lawasia and operate his legal firm, Mah Weng Kwai and Associates, in Kuala Lumpur, while he heads the anti-corruption commission.

Mr Kwai said he would be in Fiji in late June-July as he was attending the Israel Bar Association annual general meeting which would be followed by the Lawasia biannual conference in Hong Kong.

He said his appointment stemmed out of concern over allegations of corruption in the country.

Mr Kwai said he wished to contribute in whatever small way to the commission if there was a need for someone who was totally unconnected to Fiji.

He said he deemed his appointment valid and questions of the validity of the commission were another matter that would be best dealt with by the court.

“I’ve been requested to do a job in Fiji. I haven’t been told if there is a salary. This is not a full time job for me,” he said.

“I believe a deputy commissioner will be appointed soon, a foreigner.”

Mr Kwai said the need for foreigners to take up the reigns at the commission because they were not connected to local politics.

I am totally open-minded and unbiased and Id like to get on with the job under FICAC law, he said.

He said the observer mission stemmed out of concern for the rule of law and order in Fiji.

He was president of the Malaysian Bar from 2001-2003.
Mr Kwai said he would not consider re-election when his annual term expires in October.

In an earlier interview, Mr Sayed- Khaiyum said the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, appointed Mr Kwai under the commission against corruption promulgation.

He said it was the Presidents prerogative.

He said Mr Kwai brought in a wealth of experience, was of international standing and a leading member who served in the Malaysian Bar and the International Bar Association.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Kwai brought with him many contacts.

Mr Kwais appointment is for five years.

He said in similar commissions like Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, prosecution comes about after years of being set up following quite a lot of background work, evidence gathering on corruption.

“Comparatively speaking, the commission is doing very good work, obviously not all the information is being made available, until there is sufficient evidence for charges to be laid. When you compare the jurisdictions of those commissions, the work does take some time,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said Mr Kwais appointment was expected to expedite the work of the commission, which has been using solicitors overseas.

“We have a solicitor from New Zealand who is working on the collation of evidence gathered by investigation teams,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said advertisements on the required expertise would be made in due course.

A statement by Lawasia late last year condemned the actions of the Fiji military in removing the democratically elected government from power and called for a quick return to parliamentary rule.

Congrats to Mah Weng Kwai on his appointment, although it is a matter of concern that there is some confusion in Fiji between Malaysia and Melanesia, in the following May 24 online posting from fijilive,
“Law Asia President appointed Fiji corruption chief” which said:

Law Asia President appointed Fiji corruption chief

Thursday May 24, 2007

The President of Law Asia, Mah Weng Kwai, is the newly appointed Commissioner for the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

In a press conference today, interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that Fiji’s President Ratu Josefa Iloilo made the appointment as provided for under the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption Promulgation 2007.

Law Asia is an organisation whose representatives came to Fiji recently on a fact-finding mission and gave its report.

“Kwai brings an immense wealth of experience as he is a person of international standing,” said Sayed-Khaiyum.

“He is also the leading member of the Melanesian bar.

Sayed-Khaiyum said that Kwai has worked previously as the prosecutor for Prosecuting Corruption in Melanesia. He is also a member of the International Bar Association.

He went further to say that Kwai’s appointment is for a period of five years and he is looking forward to Kwai’s arrival to take up the post.

“He has obviously been talking to us and the President has thought of it to appoint someone of his international standing as the commissioner for the commission.

“The Commissioner will be working together with the Acting Deputy Commissioner for the Commission, deputy Fiji army commander Esala Teleni.

“He will also bring with him a lot of contacts and as we have continually said we are in the process of taping our resources from other competent jurisdictions,” said Sayed-Khaiyum.

According to Sayed-Khaiyum, one of them is Hong Kong and “we hope to be in Hong Kong early next month to talk to the commission there”.

“We are also in the process of trying to negotiate through Kwai’s assistance with the resources been facilitated by either way of knowledge or indeed resources from Melanesia and Singapore,” he said.

The interim Attorney General said that there has been a lot of publicity about the Commission’s work especially in terms of the speed at which the investigations are proceeding.

“If you look at the experience and if people were to venture out off Fiji and look at the experience of the various commissions that have been set up for example in Australia and New Zealand and Hong Kong, most of these commissions have been able to bring about successful prosecutions only after months if not years of being set up,” he said.

Sayed-Khaiyum said the Commission has done a lot of background work, evidence gathering in corruption and white-collar crime.

“It does require a collation of information of evidence, the current laws under the panel code has very high standard. So those standards need to be met,” he said.

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 27 May 2007 - 10:44 am

    Congratulations to Mah Weng Kwai, our local boy made good, and a credit to our country – and members of his profession showing how lawyers can take advantage of Globalisation.

    First of all, I don’t think there is any conflict of interest between his being in LawAsia (a professional association of representatives of bar councils, law associations, individual lawyers, law firms from Asia Pacific Region – and being appointed commissioner of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (“FICAC”).

    If anything, his experience in LawAsia and commitment to Rule of Law are helpful to FICAC, but whether he could do much in a five year stint, remains to be seen. He could however lay down the procedures for check and balance in FIFAC and get in people of integrity to join FIFAC and lay down the foundation. The only problem is that his appointment in FIFAC and indeed the 1970 Constitution of Fiji itself are under grace of military junta with a record of 4 coups and counter coups, the last being a bloodless one in Dec 2006 under Commodore Frank (J.V.) Bainimarama.

    Mah has advantage of Malaysian experience. Fiji is in many ways similar & different from Malaysia. Similar in the sense that Fiji inherited colonioal Bristish Constitution/common law, has ethnic problems between native Fijians and Indians (a throw back from British Indentured labour), affirmative policies like our NEP. The Indians and others were one time slight majority but now like non malays, a 40% minority due to migration and dissatisfaction with “Fijian NEP” policies. Likewise corruption from patronage policies etc.

    The difference is that economically Fiji does not have oil and gas, and dynamic non malay population (in partnership with Malays, Ali Baba notwithstanding) here to propel it. Malaysia does not have this barbaric coup culture like Fiji (or Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia!) Our politicians are sophisticated enough to assert racial hegemony via parliamentary and constitutional procedures. The other difference is that the European Union together with the United States, Britain and especially near neighhbours Australia, New Zealand are more involved in seeing what’s happening in Fiji and development of democratic rule there (as in the case of Myanmar, over this side of the world).

    Mah’s work is going to depend on how the mind of this guy, Bainimarama, really works. He could be as Machiavellian (he truies to get detractors off guard), though not as intellectual as oour previous premier.

    The minus points of Bainimarama : his 2006 coup, supposedly to correct the imbalance caused by the three previous coups is also against 1996 architect plans and aims to dismantle chiefly dominance, corruption, and command style structures and bring about accountability, transparency, inter-ethnic tolerance, and good governance.

    Yet on the other hand he is willing to endorse foreign expat like Mah to head the FICAC. (I understand they did the unprecedented of inserting in newspaper advertisement to source for one cabinet appointment?).

    This guy appears an enigma of inconsistency.

    The lessons to be drawn from Mah’s appointment raises the following question : if Fiji (parallel to us in many ways and backwards to us in other ways, even having to learn their ethnic constitutional equation from lessons of Malaysian experience) can have Independent Commission Against Corruption to be headed by an expatriate like Mah, what about us – after the controversy of the last ACA director general) – why can’t we (more developed and advance) have an Independent Commission Against Corruption headed, for purposes of check and balance, by someone independent credible, whether expat or local? We’re not short of such people : Fiji takes our man!

  2. #2 by smeagroo on Sunday, 27 May 2007 - 11:28 am

    One can only work so well in his position if the govt is serious in his appointment.

  3. #3 by WFH on Sunday, 27 May 2007 - 2:32 pm

    Has M’sia already fallen so far down, now even behind Fiji???

    Heck, sure looks like it – Fiji had Vijay Singh which M’sia previously rejected for PR – preferring the brotherhood across the Straits of Malacca. Even with his wife being M’sian, still couldnt get PR. What a favour from M’sia- he excelled after that. Had he become PR, we’ll be seeing him as another local golf course “pro”.

    Wow! Syabas M’sia!!!

  4. #4 by Libra2 on Sunday, 27 May 2007 - 4:13 pm

    If an expat were to head our Anti Corruption Agency, I am afraid the weekly cabinet meeting would have to be held at Sungai Buloh Prison and maybe several part heard cases may have to continued at the same prison.

    But then will be all the prisons be able to accommodate the police force.
    More judges will be in the dock then on the bench.
    But then this will never happen in a thousand years. [deleted]

  5. #5 by dawsheng on Monday, 28 May 2007 - 12:35 am

    At home, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok resigned as the chairman of PSCI which means all is not well in fighting corruptions in Malaysia. One wonders how come no immediate actions, replacement or assurance from PM Abdullah on the matter, perhaps the leader of the opposition should follow Dompok’s step and let see if there’s any response from the govt at all. If none, PSCI is history or it has already been history.

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