OSA can only be repealed if there’s a change in govt, forum told

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

THE opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition will repeal the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and replace it with and a new Freedom of Information Act if it comes into power at the next elections, a forum was told last night.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, one of the panellists, said he is committed to work towards the repeal of the OSA and fight for its inclusion in the PH manifesto.

“I think in the next general election, for PH to fight for the freedom of information, PH will discuss in the central committee (about abolishing OSA) and that would be my commitment.

“There should be a law reform agenda… DAP will raise this up… to make it in the PH manifesto.

“The only real way is to change the government. There is no way the present government can make a real change, it must be a PH manifesto to replace the OSA with (the) Freedom of Information (FOI) Act,  ” Lim said at the “OSA: Time to Renew or Repeal?” forum.Constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan said despite the abolishment of the OSA, limitations of certain public information can still be clearly defined and there is no need to make every bit of information public.

“But if you look at the freedom of information globally, there is still a limit of information where it cannot be easily accessible by the public.

“The important thing is it must be clearly defined, there must be a way for people to challenge the classification (of what documents are deemed secret) in court,” he said.

Using the Freedom of Information Enactment adopted by Selangor and Penang, he said, this can be the first step towards freedom of information although the OSA overrules it.

Jahabar Sadiq, The Malaysian Insight editor, said the OSA has killed investigative journalism in a way that “it is a wall” for journalists in Malaysia.

“Our job as journalist is to verify, the OSA is a wall for us and it stops us from many things, but we still try.  

“Malaysians need to be informed, only when they are informed, then they will make informed decisions in the country.”

The last panellist, a former senator, Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor, said Malaysians, especially the Malays, fail to see how “the government is using the OSA as a tool to hide corruption”.

“Of course, I tried in the government (when he was senator) to push the agenda for change or abolishment of ISA (Internal Security Act) and OSA, but as I told you, they (the government) wouldn’t allow any discussion of these, because almost all of them will be affected.

“If you don’t change the government in the next elections, the OSA will be further refined to ensure that the corrupt leaders remain wealthy  .”

Meanwhile, touching on PAS’ call to form a royal commission of inquiry into the Memali incident, Syahredzan hit out at the Islamist party, saying it should focus on reforming the government.

“If the new government is formed like what PAS is saying, we will have an attorney-general who is independent, we can open back the case of Memali, no problem.

“But the problem of PAS is that they don’t want to say that they want to change the government but they want the RCI… They should change the government, to make the country a truly free country and judicially independent,” he said.