Toll agreement: Citizens have right to know
The KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KL-SCAH) demands a Freedom of Information Act and condemns the OSA charges against the opposition leaders who revealed the toll concession agreement.
The Civil Rights Committee, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC) laments that four opposition leaders are threatened with charges under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) by politicians and police for “disclosing the privatization agreement” on the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP) highway. CRC calls upon the police to immediately drop all investigations and intimidations against the them and the government to enact a “Freedom of Information Act” which overrules the OSA and advances the citizens’ right to know.
Presently, OSA empowers the governments to cover up anything under the sun they wishes to. Not only the documents of the Cabinet and State Executive Councils as well as those “concerning national security, defence and international relations” are automatically classified as “official secrets”, Minister, Chief Minister/Menteri Besar and any officer authorized by them can add anything to the list. In addition, the law has no requirement for declassification of official secrets. Upon conviction, offenders are slapped with minimum one year imprisonment. In the past, some opposition politicians were imprisoned for exposing corruption while those implicated remained scot-free, testifying the mockery of the act.
As a member of National Coalition for a Freedom of Information Act, CRC calls upon the federal and state governments to enact Freedom of Information legislation to advance the citizens’ right to know and review the OSA accordingly. The provisions of OSA should be automatically void when and where they contradict with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In democratic societies where any secrecy law is only legitimate to check foreign spies and not concerned citizens or whistle-blowers.
A properly formulated FOIA can protect national interest better than OSA. When citizens can have commensurate access to public information, corruptions, power abuse and negligence will be exposed and checked. Unfortunately, 50 years after Independence, only the Kelantan state government has requested civil society to draft such legislation for enactment in near future.
Malaysian citizens have unfortunately been deprived of their right to know with regards to all privatization projects since 1980s. The disclosing of the LDP agreement has allowed the public to examine how the public interests have been sacrificed for private gains. CRC calls upon the public to express these demands loud and clear:
- dropping all investigations and intimidation against the four politicians;
- disclosure of all agreements on the privatized highway projects;
- enactment of a Freedom of Information Act that overrules the Official Secrets Act when the two contradicts through a Parliamentary Select Committee on media laws reform.
Ser Choon Ing,
Chairman of Civil Rights Committee
The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)