KUALA LUMPUR — Opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Vice-President Rafizi Ramli was charged yesterday under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for allegedly distributing a page from a classified report on troubled state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
However, analysts told TODAY the charge is likely to backfire on the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, who would be seen as increasingly heavy-handed in stamping out dissent.
Rafizi, who is also the PKR Secretary-General and Member of Parliament (MP) for the Pandan constituency in the state of Selangor, claimed trial to two charges under Section 8 of the OSA, over the alleged unauthorised possession and disclosure of a page from the Malaysian Auditor-General’s report on 1MDB.
If convicted, Rafizi faces imprisonment of between one and seven years. Under Malaysian laws, a federal lawmaker will lose his or her seat if sentenced to a minimum one-year jail term or a minimum fine of RM2,000 (S$690). The Auditor-General’s
report on 1MDB is still under OSA.
Rafizi is currently out on bail and his case is set for mention on April 29.
Despite the fact that Rafizi knowingly broke the law, analysts told TODAY that the BN government will still be seen as being oppressive.
Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who heads the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), said the public will still be suspicious of the government, especially since the charge came a day after the tabling of the bipartisan parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on 1MDB.
“He clearly broke the law, but the execution of the law is within the authorities’ discretion and the timing of this will make people question the government’s motive,” he said.
Mr Asrul Hadi Abdullah, a director with political risk consultancy BowerGroupAsia said this latest move is in line with Putrajaya’s move to quell any form of dissent.
“In a recent meeting with American businesses in Kuala Lumpur,
Najib called for further investments in the country and not to be influenced by negative reports. However, many industry players are concerned over the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability and the charge (against Rafizi) will only raise more questions,” he said.
Despite the risk of imprisonment and losing his parliamentary seat, Rafizi remained defiant, telling reporters yesterday that he would have no qualms repeating his actions. “I don’t understand when people ask whether the risk was worth taking or not. I don’t think people should be calculative when it comes to right and wrong — right is right, wrong is wrong. I’m very certain that what I did was right.”
Rafizi was detained and held under police remand for three days (since Tuesday) for the alleged wrongful communication of classified documents under the OSA. His arrest drew condemnation from fellow opposition lawmakers within the Pakatan Harapan coalition. AGENCIES, with additional reporting by EILEEN NG.
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