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Hindraf calls for Freedom of Information Act (FMT)

Hindraf calls for Freedom of Information Act

 | February 8, 2016

The OSA 1972, a one-sided legislation, conceals corruption, abuse of public power and mismanagement of public resources.

P.-Waythamoorthy,apandi

KUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf Makkal Salthi, an ad hoc apolitical NGO on human rights working across the political divide, has urged the Federal Government to catch up with the rest of the world on human rights and democracy through a Freedom of Information Act (FoI), among others.

“It should introduce the FoI to help adopt appropriate measures to give effect to the right to obtain information,” said Hindraf Chairman P. Waythamoorthy, a human rights advocate and senior lawyer in private practice, in a Facebook posting. “The Official Secrets Act (OSA) is an anachronism.”

The government, under the new Act, can control what it deems as classified or otherwise and act accordingly, he added.

If a public request for any information was denied, there should be a right of review on the merits and the validity of the denial, continued Waytha. “This should be done by an independent authority or some form of judicial review on the legality of the denial.”

The reviewing authority, he pointed out, would have the right to examine the information witheld. “It’s not the done thing to gag the people and threaten them with executive and institutional powers and continue to suppress the rightful freedom of expression.”

“The Attorney-General should strengthen public trust in institutions but instead he’s weakening them.”



Waytha was commenting on Attorney-General Mohamad Apandi Ali disclosing in the Sin Chew Daily on Sunday that he plans to amend the OSA to increase punishment for those who leak state secrets. “It appears that he wants to jail for life those journalists who report official secrets and also give them 10 strokes of the rotan.”

Freedom of expression has a double dimension, argued Waytha. “It protects not only the individual’s right to impart information and ideas but also the general public’s right to receive them.”

Freedom of expression was a key human liberty, in particular because of its fundamental role in underpinning democracy, he stressed.

The OSA 1972, he charged, was one-sided legislation that accords unlimited power to officials to deny information to the public. “It enables the use of the Act to conceal corruption, abuse of public power and mismanagement of public resources.”

“This is contrary to generally established principles of administration and wholly contrary to international standards in democratic countries.”

The outburst by the AG, proposing increasing sentencing, was a regressive move by the government, warned Waytha. “The OSA 1972 should be redrafted and redifined to respect the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.”

Instead, he said, the AG seems to be taking a step backward to subject the current administration to further backlash and public hatred. “Again, this is contrary to fundamental democratic principles of an open and democratic government.”

The amount of information subject to classification as a state secret in Malaysia was potentially unlimited, alleged Waytha. “This is not healthy.”

“The protection of freedom of information is a vital element and important to ensure and encourage good administrative practices at all levels of the civil service.”