Don’t misuse the OSA

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Image: cartoon by Zunar/Malaysiakini

Classifying every single state of affairs as confidential under the OSA will undermine Parliament and kill public opinion, says WH Cheng.

Recently, the Official Secrets Act 1972, better known as the OSA, has become yet another tool used by the BN government to prevent people from exposing corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement in government.

It seems very convenient for the government to hide whatever crimes its officials have committed in order to protect themselves from any probe or prosecution.

Just look at the way the OSA has been treated. The attorney general and the de facto law minister (minister in the prime minister’s department overseeing legal and judicial matters) have been openly seeking a review of the Act to enhance the penalty for leaks or exposes on corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement in government.

So, whatever wrongs and crimes found within the government framework will be kept under utmost secrecy to protect the perpetrators of such wrongdoings.

The issue of the RM2.6bn deposit in the prime minister’s personal account was declared off limits for discussion in Parliament while the case of the cash-strapped Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) due to 1MDB’s default payment was also classified as secret. We hope the auditor general’s annual report will not be classified under the OSA.

If this happens, Parliament will not be given the role to review, discuss and debate issues related to the government of the day while the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) too will no longer be able to scrutinise irregularities found in the government.

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Classifying every single state of affairs as confidential under the OSA will undermine parliament and kill public opinion.

A crisis of confidence is plaguing the East Sabah Security Command (Esscom) over its continual failure to protect our nation’s sovereignty due to intense politicking. Will this too be classified under the OSA, should public criticism and frustrations intensify?

Putting the whole mess under OSA?

What if another jet engine goes missing and ends up in an African nation? What if the two navy Scorpene submarines are unable to dive for certain reasons? What if almost all the air force fighter aircraft were grounded because of faulty and imitation spare parts?

What would happen if more police guns and ammunition continue to drop into the sea or rivers by accident for whatever reasons?

What if the treasury of our nation becomes empty and soon our nation’s safety and security are at stake? These are scary scenarios, but it would be even scarier if such mess is classified under the OSA.

In this case, there will be no more transparency or accountability, when all controversial affairs of the government are placed under the OSA to protect its top leaders.

People are the stakeholders

The government should wake up from its OSA obsession to realise that the people are the real stakeholders of this nation because they pay taxes to the government every year.

The funds used by the government are public funds. The public funds do not belong solely to the prime minister, his cabinet ministers or any Umno divisional chairman. The role of the government is to render public service to the people; thus its state of affairs should be made public and be ready for scrutiny when necessary.

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The OSA serves to protect our nation’s security and sovereignty from any kinds of betrayal that could result in our nation coming under threat or attack by a foreign force.

The OSA is not meant for keeping secret any cases of corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement committed by the prime minister, cabinet ministers, senior public officials, civil servants, government-linked companies (GLCs) and leaders of the ruling party.

Such crimes or wrongdoings must be made public, publicly exposed and reported by whoever comes across them. Criminal proceedings should then follow to ensure justice is served and the public interest is protected instead of personal interests.

If the OSA continues to be used as the ultimate weapon against the people for their scrutiny of government affairs, what will become of our nation? We will be living in a failed nation, drained and bankrupt?

If the OSA continues to reign supreme over us, we would advise the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia to forget about parliamentary reforms and dissolve the PAC because then he will be only a puppet to the executive.

Minister Paul Low too should stop wasting his time in his attempt to strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act because he would just be swallowing his own integrity.

Source: Berita Daily

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