Malaysiakini Yoursay

Yoursay: Replace OSA with Freedom of Information Act

Yoursay  |  Published:  |  Modified:

YOURSAY | I thought this was 'New Malaysia'. I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

PM: OSA to stay, so elect those who won't abuse the law

Malaysian Born: Sorry, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, this is not good enough (for the rakyat to elect politicians who won’t abuse the Official Secrets Act).

There has been a clear abuse of this law by past governments. Even the Internal Security Act (ISA) was abused for political reasons by the government led by you in the past.

To say we have to trust the government is utter nonsense and cannot be accepted. We are not stupid. There must come a time that we tell the politicians and lawmakers to do their job; draft, and where necessary, re-draft laws so that abuse of such laws is very unlikely, if not impossible.

There is no such thing as trusting any politician with laws that can be abused, as they have shown themselves to be completely undependable when their political future comes under threat.

So, with all due respect to Mahathir and his team, stop talking nonsense and get to work. Don’t expect the rakyat to accept laws that can be used to stifle dissent and the opposition to obscure wrongdoings on their part.

After this ridiculous fiasco by the BN government and the fraction of obscene wrongdoing that has been exposed, it is absurd for anyone, Mahathir notwithstanding, to ask us to trust them.

In God we trust, all else we verify! Politicians are definitely in the "verify" category.

David Dass: We saw how much damage was done to the nation by the use or abuse of the OSA.

Keeping secrets confidential, the release of which could damage our security, is understandable. Define those secrets clearly within the Act.

Mahathir talks about deliberations of government within the cabinet and elsewhere. It is hard to see these as requiring OSA status.

Unless they fall within the first category of government secrets, the OSA should not be used as a cover for illegal or corrupt acts of government or government officials.

And if the Act is drawn so broadly as to include every kind of information, it will make useless the Whistleblower Protection Act and the Witness Protection Act.

It is the uncertainty that will be damaging. So the information protected should be defined in clear and specific terms. And even then, there should be protection or exemptions within the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Indeed, all-encompassing definitions will protect those who are corrupt and those who abuse power.

Ah-Hah: Mahathir has a very dark record of rights offences while he was PM the first time around. He has since reformed a lot, but Harapan should hold firmly to its manifesto.

Mahathir must be held in check as he seems to be wandering, on too many occasions, back to his old ways.

The OSA has been abused too much already. It has to be revamped in a manner which is just and acceptable.

Harapan, do your job. Give us 'Malaysia Baru' as promised.

Anandkpr77: We don't need laws that prevent transparency. I thought this was 'New Malaysia'. I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Quigonbond: Harapan should make sure that if OSA is revised, it has to incorporate freedom of information provisions.

Cabinet meetings should remain secret; national security and public facilities security at a strategic and logistics level should remain secret. But it should not be the case where everything is secret, which is why we have abuse and corruption, in among others, the Defence Ministry.

There are plenty of examples out there how to make this work, such as giving a time limit for information to be automatically declassified, switching the burden from information seeker to the government to explain why it should remain secret.

Many aspects of OSA decision-making should be subject to the courts – behind closed doors if they have to.

This is the absolute minimum, otherwise this is will be a fundamental promise that Harapan is backtracking on. Its credibility is determined by how many more promises Harapan will backtrack on.

Anonymousytmq123: Malaysians are seriously not interested in eavesdropping on cabinet discussions. Malaysians understand that when it comes to defence and foreign relations matters, secrecy would be necessary.

But what Harapan leaders campaigned for was for disclosure on commercial agreements, which need not be secret.

Perhaps Mahathir has to be queried further. If I could advise Malaysiakini, please be relentless. We don't have a choice since Harapan MPs are not doing the check and balance.

Anonymous 2465861491622056: Yes, OSA needs to be amended to ensure that all financial matters, including contracts, cannot be classified as OSA to ensure that the present and future governments cannot sign lopsided agreements without the public's knowledge.

6th Generation Immigrant: The minutes of cabinet meetings must first be "declassified" and open to public scrutiny after every five years. This is not provided for in our country.

In this way, the power to instil, uphold and enforce the rule of law remains with the electorate, not leaders or politicians, as they will know the cat will be out of the bag every five years – with or without OSA.

This then is a win-win situation and the OSA need not be repealed, but thoroughly revamped.

Clever Voter: Yes, when the government has the power to classify information, it must do the same to declassify it, say after 15 or even 20 years.

Granted that the years of mistrust can never be removed overnight, the government has to work harder on justifying why OSA is necessary.

The worst scenario is to accept it, but there should be recourse to challenge and this should not be confined to the ballot box.

Wira: We don't trust the government of the day to not abuse the law. Dr M, if Harapan had lost on May 9, you would have sung a different tune.

The OSA must be replaced with a Freedom of Information Act. Study how other democracies are able to govern while having freedom of information.

Yes, the people deserve the government they choose. However, remember how difficult can the odds be stacked against the challenges to a corrupt government.

Don't renege on Harapan’s promises. Remember, the government can still fall.

Anonymous 2327531438397239: There is always a case for keeping information secret, especially when it has to do with national security.

But acts of corruption, mismanagement and wrongdoings in government must never be allowed to be hidden. There must be avenues for such information to be opened for public scrutiny.

Even with a government of individuals with unquestionable integrity and honesty, there is still the possibility of the law being abused.

In such a situation, protection must be afforded and guaranteed (like the Whistleblower Protection Act) to those who reveal abuses vis-à-vis OSA or any other laws enacted.

Anonymousytmq123: Dr M, you are setting a bad precedent and a bad example here. You made the promise to repeal repressive laws in order to get elected, and once you are there, you are changing the tune in order to protect your cronies and their secrets.

Indeed, we are not asking for disclosure of cabinet minutes. We want disclosure on all commercial agreements, such as the independent power producer (IPP) contracts and toll concession agreements.


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These comments are compiled to reflect the views of Malaysiakini subscribers on matters of public interest. Malaysiakini does not intend to represent these views as fact.

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