The Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) is not meant for covering up serious breaches and malpractice committed by government institutions, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court heard today.
This was the contention raised by the defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo, when cross-examining National Audit Department deputy director Nor Salwani Muhammad.
“I agree,” she told the court in response.
She was testifying as the first prosecution witness at the trial of Pandan MP Mohd Rafizi Ramli, who is accused of two offences under the OSA after disclosing documents that purportedly link Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) and 1MDB.
Nor Salwani, 49, earlier explained to the court that the LTAT functions similarly to the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF), except that it is intended for military personnel whose ranks made them ineligible for a pension.
She agreed to Gobind’s suggestion that this makes LTAT’s affairs a matter of public interest, and by extension, the way LTAT uses the contributions it receives, becomes a matter of public interest too.
However, the Sessions Judge Zulqarnain Hassan disallowed several questions from Gobind, following objections by deputy public prosecutor Shukor Abu Bakar.
The contents of Gobind’s questions include some of the allegations raised by Rafizi in disclosing the documents, which Malaysiakini is unable to report due to restrictions under the OSA.
Not only that the contents are still secret, Shukor said, the questions are also irrelevant to the case – which is whether Rafizi had possessed and disclosed Page 98 of the National Audit Department’s audit report without authorisation, as charged.
In response to Shukor’s objections, Gobind pointed out that the allegations are contained in Exhibit P4, which is comprised of screenshots of Rafizi’s blog post that contained the secret document.
He said it would be ‘very strange’ if copies of the document had been tendered in court as evidence and a copy had been handed to him as Rafizi’s lawyer, but he was not allowed ask questions about it.
“She might as well take these documents back and not give it back to me,” he quipped.
Shukor countered that although copies of Page 98 of the report had been leaked, the leaked page did not dwell into details.
“But to answer (Gobind’s) questions however, she (Nor Salwani) would have to refer to portions of the 1MDB audit report that remain secret,” he said.
In the end, Gobind was able to rephrase his questions and establish that LTAT’s affairs were indeed a matter of public interest.
The hearing will resume on June 17.