Release two key reports on reforms; limit scope of OSA

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Graphic: cilisos.my

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.

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.

READ MORE:  Reforms must be continued, not delayed

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

Endorsed by:

  1. Agora Society
  2. Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
  3. All Women’s Action Siciety (Awam)
  4. Association of Women Lawyers
  5. Bersih 2.0
  6. Beyond Borders
  7. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  8. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
  9. Childline Malaysia
  10. Eliminating Deaths and Abuse In Custody Together (Edict)
  11. Engage
  12. Foreign Spouses Support Group
  13. Friends of Kota Damansara
  14. Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik IPT
  15. Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy
  16. Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm)
  17. Global Bersih
  18. Green Friends Sabah
  19. Health Equity Initiatives
  20. Ideas
  21. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
  22. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
  23. Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (Kryss)
  24. LLG Cultural Development Centre
  25. Malaysia Muda
  26. Malaysian Care
  27. Monsoons Malaysia
  28. Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
  29. MyPJ
  30. National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
  31. Pacos Trust, Sabah
  32. Penang Heritage Trust
  33. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
  34. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  35. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  36. Project Liber8
  37. Pusat Komas
  38. Sahabat Rakyat
  39. Save Rivers
  40. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  41. Sinar Project
  42. Sisters in Islam
  43. SM Muthu Kota Kinabalu
  44. Suaram
  45. Tanjung Bungah Residents Association (TBRA)
  46. Tenaganita
  47. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  48. The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
  49. Toy Libraries Malaysia
  50. Umany
  51. Women’s Centre for Change
  52. Women Development Organisation Malaysia
  53. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
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