Friday, 12 January 2007

OSA and Pak Lah's Broken Election Promise of Openness

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said a check would be made first to verify if the government’s agreement with Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (Litrak), operator of the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP), was Official Secret Act (OSA)-classified. “If it is, we can take action. We can also check on how Keadilan obtained the document,” the prime minister told reporters yesterday.

Pak Lah's 2004 Election Promises:

  • Encourage creativity and openness, while being sensitive to our differences.
  • Continue the crackdown against corruption, without fear or favour.
  • Cut red tape and improve ease of access eg online services.

From Elizabeth Wong's Blog:
"... Instead of telling the rakyat what are in the toll agreements, the Prime Minister has instead threatened to come down hard on the Coalition Against Tolls for bringing to light, the minute details.

....Instead of acting on his liberal promises of being transparent and accountable, the Prime Minister has instead threatened to arrest the president of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress and chair of the Coalition, En. Syed Shahir, and politicians such as Dr. Hatta Ramli (PAS), Tian Chua (PKR) and Ronnie Liu (DAP).

.... Instead of initiating new discussions with the toll operators, the Prime Minister has instead decided to search and destroy the whistle-blower who had acted in the interest of the public.

The following questions have to be asked:

Why have toll agreements classified as a matter of ‘national security” in the
first place?

How many more contracts and agreements are considered ’state

And whose interests do these contracts serve?

From Gelanggan Minda, Medan Bicara
Open Letter from Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim:(Excerpts)
"... The Barisan Nasional’s action to continue to deny the right of the people to know the content of the highway concession agreement between the government and the highway operators is a clear indication that BN has no interest about what is important for the people and the problems they are facing in life.

...The main issue now is the government had committed a blunder in negotiations with the companies concerned. The people are now paying the price of this mistake in the form of high toll rates. Not only the government’s mistake was pointed out by political parties and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) but also by none other than the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who admitted about the negligence of the government (under his leadership) in their conduct of those negotiations.

....The OSA itself is a draconian and repressive law that belongs only in history. It denies the people’s rights. Often BN leaders use it as protection and to cover up their corrupt lifestyle. Malaysia must act swiftly to introduce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which has been proven effective in combating corruption and defending the people’s rights."

"...The OSA is a real problem in Malaysia. Former Keadilan Youth Chief, Ezam Mohd Noor, was jailed for two years under the OSA for exposing documents implicating senior government leaders under Tun Dr. Mahathir with corruption.

The corruption allegation was not dealt with while the whistleblower was jailed.

If the PM is serious to promote transparency and accountability, it should legislate a Freedom of Information Act that limits the ambit of the OSA only on documents relating to national security.

The current OSA is so broad and vaguely defined that any piece of paper coming out from the government can be labeled and OSA, without due regard to public interest, its availability in the public domain or whether its disclosure has any effect on national security.

But privatisation (and it seems, the now popular PFI) carries with it an added risk.... these model of carrying out public projects tend to lead to contractual documents being regarded as confidential commercial documents, WITHOUT the public being privy to how their money is being utilised.

So the proposed Freedom of Information Act must include privatisation and PFI agreements to ensure that the private parties are accountable for how they use the public funds.

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