Thursday, March 10, 2016

Malaysia going backwards by strengthening OSA, says anti-graft group

Revising penalties under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) will only push Malaysia into a pre-colonial era at a time when other governments are pursuing more transparency, an anti-graft group said. The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said the Internet had crippled governments' ability to hide information from the public, and this had pressured them to become more accountable. "In Malaysia, the attempt to tightly control information at the top, the exclusion of the masses from public affairs, and the application of corporal and disproportionately heavy punishments, is pushing our country further away from the authoritarian democracy that it currently is, into a hard-fist dictatorship. "The Malaysian government is not only moving our society backwards into pre-colonial times but is shamelessly doing so under the pretence of moving forward," said C4 director Cynthia Gabriel. She was responding to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said's statement that the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) believed a review of the OSA was timely. Azalina said this was due to the "current trend of information spreading unrestricted in the world, as well as the frequent leak of government secrets". But Cynthia said countries such as Denmark were embracing transparency by enabling free access to basic data, while the Slovakian government was publishing government contracts online. The Moldovan government required each of its ministries to release at least three new data sets to the public each month, while the Italian senate published legislative data on its data portal. "In the United States of America, the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act guarantees every individual the right to sue the government if he/she does not receive a response to an information request within the stated time period. "Closer to home, Indonesia, too, has set up provisions under its FOI Act to equip individuals with the right to pursue legal recourse if they are prevented from obtaining information. "India, like the United Kingdom, has liberalised its secrecy laws while establishing FOI laws in order to protect public interest from corrupt politicians," she added. Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali told Chinese-language paper Sin Chew Daily last month that he was mulling proposing heavier punishment on those who leaked official secrets. He said his office was considering life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane as punishment. Apandi added that the charges would extend to journalists who protect or refusing to disclose their sources. – March 11, 2016.]]>

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