Call on Dr. Mahathir Mohamed to list out the instances where the definition of ‘official secrets’ in the OSA Amendment Bill is less ‘extensive’ than the present act


by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, on Monday, Nov. 17 1986:

Call on Dr. Mahathir Mohamed to list out the instances where the definition of ‘official secrets’ in the OSA Amendment Bill is less ‘extensive’ than the present act.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, made the remarkable statement to reporters after the opening of the MCA General Assembly yesterday that the definition of ‘official secrets’ is less extensive in the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill than in the present Official Secrets Act.

If Dr. Mahathir is right, then the government is being more liberal in providing for a more restricted and limited definition to ‘official secrets’ in the Bill than available in the present OSA.

I find it surprising that the government leaders had been very coy about making this assertion until yesterday, or in listing the areas which would not be covered by the definition of ‘official secrets’ under the Bill but which are caught by the present Act.

It is most uncharacteristic of the government that it does not want to make full capital of ‘virtues’ in the Bill, to show that it is being more liberal rather than being more oppressive and draconian.

I call on the Prime Minister to list out the instances, areas and official information to justify his claim that the definition of ‘official secrets’ in the OSA Amendment Bill is less ‘extensive’ than the present Act which are now outside the dragnet of ‘official secrets’.

I find the Prime Minister not very well-informed about the Official Secrets Act or the whole question of freedom of information from his claim that there had only been three cases of people taken to court under the Official Secrets Act in the last 30 years.

Apart from the current OSA case against lawyer Phang Ah Hee, who was former Deputy Public Prosecutor, in connection with police papers, five people had been taken to court on the OSA, myself, P. Patto, DAP Mp for Ipoh, Datuk Dzulkifli Hamid (former Sabah Finance Minister), and two journalists Sabry Sharif of New Straits Times and James Clad of Far Eastern Economic Review.

This reinforces my view that most Cabinet Ministers are very hazy and unknowledgeable about the OSA and the 1986 Amendment which had created such a nation-wide outcry. This is probably why officers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers had to give a special briefing to Cabinet Ministers last Thursday.

The Cabinet Ministers have been putting the cart before horse, for they should have received a full briefing from the Attorney-General’s Chambers on the far-reaching consequences of the OSA Amendment Bill before deciding to present the Bill to Parliament, rather than the reverse.

This is probably why Barisan Nasional leaders have been making very odd statement about the OSA Amendment Bill. This also explains why no Government leader had been able to join issue with the critics and opponents of the OSA and the 1986 Amendment Bill, being completely unable to cogent reasons rebut the argument against the proposed legislation.

For instance, no Government leader had attempted to explain why Malaysia should have so repugnant an Official Secrets Act where there is no distinction between treason and corruption on the one hand, and the disclosure of information for the public good disclosure of information because of on the other.

Call on Government to heed Tunku Abdul Rahman’s call for referring the OSA Amendment Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
Bapa Malaysia and founding Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in his weekly column ‘As I See It…’ has again come out as the elder statesman in Malaysia to call for the OSA Amendment Bill to be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee, because of its implications.

As Tunku said, it is really regrettable that we seem to be veering away from democracy, which is opposed to the principles pf democracy Malaysians are sworn to uphold.

Tunku has rightly spoken up against “a need to rush” the OSA Amendment Bill through all stages of reading in Parliament.
I call on the Government to heed the Tunku’s advice and wisdom, and not to rush headlong towards the repression of freedom of information, speech and expression.

The Government should also weigh the words of the Chief Justice of Malaya, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid on Saturday that “excessive encroachments, restraints or interventions against freedom of speech or expression…..would undermine these fundamental liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution and render tem meaningless.”

This is what the OSA and the 1986 Amendment Bill will do to Article 10(1)(a) of the Malaysian Constitution on the freedom of speech and expression.

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