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MALAYSIA WILL INTRODUCE WITHNESS PROTECTION

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — The government will introduce a witness protection programme to protect whistle-blowers and give witnesses a change of identity as part of the government's widespread reforms to fight graft and other dangerous and organised crimes.
The programme will be under the supervision of a director-general of witness protection, who can take all action "that is considered necessary and reasonable" to protect the welfare and safety of a witness.
Such actions will include providing the witness a new identity and to provide compensation and accommodation for the participant.Necessary steps would also be taken to help the witness gain employment.
A law to introduce the programme was tabled in Parliament today by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.
The Witness Protection Bill is the fourth major law being proposed by the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration in the past two weeks.
Last week, the prime minister tabled legislation to set up the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC). Today, the Witness Protection Bill, a groundbreaking law which will give a fillip to efforts to persuade witnesses to come forward in corruption and other serious cases, was tabled for first reading.
Under the provisions of the Bill, any application to be admitted under the programme would be vetted by the Attorney-General. Applicants can appeal to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department should the application be rejected by the A-G.
The applicants' criminal records, mental health and whether alternative protection can be provided are among factors to be considered before being admitted to the programme.
Protection can also be revoked by the A-G upon the recommendation of the director-general of the witness protection programme.
Last month Nazri had promised to provide better protection for witnesses by introducing the new law. The Bill also sets out what a witness would have to disclose to the DG when applying, such as details of criminal history, outstanding tax, bankruptcy proceedings, immigration status, business dealings, financial liabilities and assets as well as general medical condition.
The final decision whether or not to allow a witness into the programme will be made by the A-G. A registrar of witness protection will also be appointed to maintain a register of participants and that only the A-G, DG, minister and any other person authorised by the DG would have access to the register.
This register would also not be produced in court.
The Malaysian Insider
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