Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 28 Aug 2018
Civil society strongly protests the Prime Minister’s decision to keep the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) 100-day report secret simply by saying it is the government’s business. He has also announced that the Official Secrets Act 1972 will stay despite the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition’s promised revision prior to GE14. This is in total contradiction to the new government’s commitment to total transparency during the exposes of the Najib administration just after the May elections.
Civil Society will not be complicit in compromising human rights
NGOs like SUARAM that submitted their reports to the Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) certainly want their submissions to be made public so that the public knows that we are not complicit in the new government’s reneging on their GE14 promises. Since the May elections, many of our human rights demands have not been met and these include not just the OSA but also detention-without-trial laws, the Sedition Act, child marriages, harassment of LGBTQ and the violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. If the PH government does not make the CEP report public, the people may think that the government acted on our recommendations. Thus, may I suggest that the PH government releases the IRC report since it was submitted separately to the CEP.
CEP’s reputation at stake
The old BN government used to say that the OSA was needed for national security. Now the new PH government says that submissions to the CEP are “sensitive” and that some businesses may suffer. Really? Does it justify Rafizi’s charges under the OSA then since he wasn’t sensitive enough to the health of the corporation he was exposing? After the cows and condos scandal he raised to deserve the charges under the OSA, he might well say, “What a load of bullocks!”
The CEP needs to be reminded that they will be held culpable in Dr Mahathir’s recent decisions which are not just contradictory to the PH manifesto but look like the repeat of Mahathir 1.0. These include the announcement that Khazanah will be privatised for Bumiputera interests and the new national car project Proton 2.0. Presumably, the Prime Minister was advised by his Council of Eminent Persons on these decisions? If not, how are we to know when the CEP report is kept secret? I am afraid, they will have to live with their tarnished reputation.
PH reneging on more election promises
This is what was promised Malaysians in PH’s Buku Harapan by PH leader Zaid Ibrahim:
“A promise that the Official Secrets Act 1972 in its current form will be repealed will tell Malaysians that corrupt leaders can no longer hide behind draconian legislation. If this act is repealed, our ministers, top civil servants and police chiefs in future will no longer be so filthy rich to steal as they like. It will tell the people that those in the government will not be able to classify documents as official secrets at whim. With this act of revocation, those who have stolen government property will find themselves facing the attention of the world…”
If I quoted all the statements condemning the OSA by former dissidents who now sit in the new government, they would run into reams. I still remember the rousing speeches against the OSA by all these former “democrats” since the seventies. These are recorded in a publication by Gurmit Singh during the Eighties titled: “No to Secrets”.
Even more recently on 17 Aug 2017, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang told a forum that “the Pakatan Harapan coalition will repeal the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and replace it with and a new Freedom of Information Act if it comes into power at the next elections… we are committed to work towards the repeal of the OSA and fight for its inclusion in the PH manifesto to show its commitment to transparency in line with the spirit of the “New Malaysia”.
The infringement of the rule of law by the OSA was best summed up by Param Cumaraswamy, former President of the Malaysian Bar in 1986:
“With the definition of official secret so wide, coupled with the one-year minimum sentence and the power of the courts curtailed, there is no doubt that the OSA infringes the concept of the rule of law. It confers wide discretionary powers on public officers without adequate protection against abuse. The powers of our courts, which are traditionally the guardians of our freedoms, will be curtailed. The right to free speech and expression guaranteed under our Constitution will be unduly restricted…”