We, the undersigned civil society groups, view with deep concern the statement by Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin that the report by the Council of Eminent Persons has been classified secret under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA).
The bedrock of the Pakatan Harapan government must be reform, as promised in its manifesto and as chanted at all the Pakatan Harapan rallies held before the election.
We need reform of the country’s key institutions such as Parliament, the judiciary and the police. We desperately need reform of the many repressive laws that have been abused time and time again by the previous government.
The OSA is one of those many repressive laws. While we acknowledge that every government needs to be able to keep certain documents confidential in the interest of the nation’s security and wellbeing, we state categorically that the current OSA cannot be the law that is used to do so.
The OSA is a deeply flawed law that has been misused and abused to hide criminal acts and government misconduct. It has been used to classify all manner of documents secret, including highway and water concession agreements, city council minutes and the air pollution index.
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The OSA, as it stands, is the ultimate symbol of a government with something to hide and that has no interest in being held accountable.
The fact that a Pakatan Harapan deputy minister is justifying its use – to keep secret a report that was crafted for the very purpose of aiding in the reform process – rings alarm bells for civil society about this government’s commitment to reform.
Pakatan Harapan must not commit another U-turn, especially where the reform is fundamental to a robust and lasting democracy. The OSA must be reviewed to limit and restrict the scope in which it can be invoked. Also, a Freedom of Information Act must be enacted, as promised in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, to counterbalance the OSA.
In line with civil society’s stand that information of interest to the nation must be freely available and accessible to all, civil society groups and individuals who have contributed to the Institutional Reform Committee shall provide our individual submissions for public consumption.
Furthermore, we call on the Pakatan Harapan administration and politicians from both side of the political divide to commit to:
- conduct a comprehensive review of the OSA to bring it in line with international standards on freedom of information and to limit its applicability to matters pertaining to national security, defence, international relations and other narrowly defined criteria
- enact a Freedom of Information Act without delay
- release the Institutional Reforms Committee report, which was prepared under the auspices of the Council of Eminent Persons, to the public
- release the Council of Eminent Persons report to the public, with sensitive financial and other confidential information redacted, if necessary
- Agora Society
- Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
- All Women’s Action Siciety (Awam)
- Association of Women Lawyers
- Bersih 2.0
- Beyond Borders
- Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
- Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
- Childline Malaysia
- Eliminating Deaths and Abuse In Custody Together (Edict)
- Foreign Spouses Support Group
- Friends of Kota Damansara
- Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik IPT
- Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy
- Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm)
- Global Bersih
- Green Friends Sabah
- Health Equity Initiatives
- Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
- Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
- Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (Kryss)
- LLG Cultural Development Centre
- Malaysia Muda
- Malaysian Care
- Monsoons Malaysia
- Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
- National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
- Pacos Trust, Sabah
- Penang Heritage Trust
- Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
- Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
- Project Liber8
- Pusat Komas
- Sahabat Rakyat
- Save Rivers
- Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
- Sinar Project
- Sisters in Islam
- SM Muthu Kota Kinabalu
- Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA)
- Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
- The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
- Toy Libraries Malaysia
- Women’s Centre for Change
- Women Development Organisation Malaysia
- Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)