Kuala Lumpur, 29 March 2019 – IDEAS is concerned over Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin’s statement in Parliament that the government will not make the findings of the Council of Eminent Person’s (CEP) 100 day report public, and has also placed it under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972.
The concern is twofold. Firstly, the CEP’s findings should have been made public in the first place. The CEP was formed with the purpose to discuss national issues and provide recommendations to the government. “The CEP held meetings with various academics, NGOs and government officials throughout their tenure, and Malaysians are entitled to know the outcome of these meetings. Perhaps the government can enlighten us on what exactly in the report we shouldn’t know, after all, any genuinely confidential information can be redacted,” said Aira Azhari, Senior Executive, Democracy and Governance at IDEAS.
Secondly, the use of the OSA is a worrying development in Malaysia Baharu. One of the core promises in Buku Harapan is to review the OSA. “Not only is this a step backwards in the implementation of this promise, but the use of the OSA to exclude the public from legitimate debate about Malaysia’s future direction is tantamount to not trusting Malaysians with the information we need to bring the political debate to a higher level,” comments Aira.
The government must not allow their commitment towards transparency and accountability be further questioned by the public. The public’s trust is crucial in a mature democracy, and PH must not repeat the mistakes of the past, where open discussions were stifled. Furthermore, there have been repeated questions about the government’s overall economic strategy, demonstrating a clear need to improve communication and information sharing with the public. We urge the government to stay true to its promises, and commit to enacting a Freedom of Information Act, as stipulated in both the Buku Harapan and the National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023.