Why should the CEP report be classified?

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“I have no doubt that the nation has suffered more from undue secrecy than from undue disclosure. The government takes good care of itself.”

– Daniel Schorr

COMMENT | Apparently, the findings of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) may not be made public. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad made this rather weird statement: "Their job is to investigate and report to me. Whether I accept the report or not is my business. The main thing is to feed me with the information I need in order to make decisions, so it is the government’s business.”

Wait a minute, government business?

Since when are the interests of the public and the government mutually exclusive? Is there any business which is exclusively the province of the government, or is all business of the government the domain of the public?

If the prime minister wanted unvarnished information, he should have just appointed advisers in non-official capacities to give him input during his decision-making process. This way, it is his business and his business alone, and we would judge his decisions based on the efficacy of his policies.

It is also rather telling that some political operatives think of the government as distinct from the people who voted them into office. As if the government and its institutions were their personal playgrounds, and that politicians and not the people know what is best for the country.

If the CEP’s findings were never intended for public consumption, then why make a spectacle of their formation? Why trumpet the fact that these eminent persons were there to help save Malaysia from becoming one of US President Donald Trump’s “third world shitholes”?

Why the numerous public comments by CEP chair Daim Zainuddin (photo) about the work of the council in digging up the scandals of the past regimes, or the numerous comments by one-time CEP mouthpiece A Kadir Jasin?

Former top civil servant Ramon Navaratnam writes that this present government was voted in inter alia because they promised greater transparency and accountability.

The CEP apparently did consult stakeholders and went through various ministries and if the reporting is accurate, Daim did far more than just consult. Read the reportage by Malaysiakini about Daim’s alleged role in the removal of the country's top judges.

This is the controversial aspect of the CEP, I suppose. This is also why economist KS Jomo opined that the council should be disbanded and individuals contribute when and where the old maverick needs advice.

This, of course, should have been done in the beginning, instead of hyping up the council as being needed because the cabinet was inexperienced or that because these particular steady hands were required to save Malaysia...

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