PUTRAJAYA, Jan 11 — All witnesses under Malaysia’s witness protection programme last year were protected with no casualties recorded, legal affairs minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.
Liew said the Protection Division in the Prime Minister’s Department “successfully protected witnesses from any threat with optimum security control at a rate of 100 per cent without any oversight or casualty”.
“This was followed by the success in managing witnesses who testified in court (seven cases) and the trial process concluding after the judge handed down the sentence to the accused persons,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of legal affairs said in a speech.
Malaysia has a witness protection programme under the Witness Protection Act 2009. Liew today expressed hope that the Protection Division could this year work towards enhancing the law to match the needs of witnesses.
“For example, someone who wishes to have protection or assistance under the programme for other reasons besides being present in court to testify, or a former participant of the programme who is still facing threat towards himself and his family due to his commitment in the trial previously,” he said.
“It is hoped that the Protection Division can take on the responsibility of providing total protection to them and prevent them from receiving any threats,” he added.
Under the Witness Protection Act, actions that may be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of a protected witness include relocation and providing a place to stay, facilitating the establishing of a new identity, providing funds for living expenses or relocation costs, as well as assisting in obtaining employment.
Earlier, in the same speech, where he addressed staff of the Legal Affairs Division in the Prime Minister’s Department, Liew also spoke about the concept of rule of law where everyone is subject to the same laws and has access to justice.
Liew went on to say that the rule of law requires buildings, funds and qualified personnel for government institutions such as the judiciary, military, police and bureaucracy to function effectively.
“Equally important is the bureaucrats or public servants must not demand bribes from citizens before providing services, nor may they steal from the public purse,” he said when stressing the need for civil servants to be transparent and accountable.
Bureaucrats should make decisions based on rules rather than follow “arbitrary whims” and should also be qualified and be recruited based on merit.