DAP to formally propose in Parliament that OSA Amendment Bill be referred to Parliamentary Select Committee during second reading

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP For Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, at the official opening of the Malacca DAP State Convention held in Malacca on Sunday, 23.11.1986 at 10 a.m.

DAP to formally propose in Parliament that OSA Amendment Bill be referred to Parliamentary Select Committee during second reading

The DAP will propose, under Standing Order 54, that the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee, during the second reading of the Bill either on Dec.5 or 8.

The DAP MPs will also invoke Standing Order 46(4) to call for a division to decide on the proposal to refer the Bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee, as well as in the vote for the second reading as well as the third reading.

The Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill is not only the most undemocratic piece of legislation since the August general elections, it threatens the very basis of democracy and freedom in Malaysia.

This is why there has been an unprecedented nation-wide campaign against the OSA Amendment Bill, and no single Bill has aroused greater public opposition in the nation’s history than the OSA Amendment Bill.

No Government leader, whether Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, or Education Minister or others, has been able to satisfy the thinking Malaysian public why Malaysia needs such a draconian and oppressive secrets law.

The Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, said yesterday that only documents kept in special files which have been crossed will be classified as official secrets, the possession of which may lead to prosecution under the OSA. He said that only a Minister or a top Government officer assigned by the Minister was empowered to classify a document or information as official secret. Other secrets that came under the purview of the Government General Orders would not be classified as official secrets under the Act.

Anwar Ibrahim said that an Administrative Order would be appended to the Official Secrets Act “to make clear its implementation.”

Anwar Ibrahim’s clarifications are totally unsatisfactory. Firstly, no Administrative Order of the Government can override the clear legislative meaning of the OSA Amendment Bill which provides that “a public officer”, regardless of his position or level, is empowered to classify a document “\’Top Secret’, ‘Secret’, ‘Confidential’ or ‘Restricted’ as the case may be.

Secondly, it is humanly impossible for the Minister or another top government officer to be solely responsible for the classification of documents or information as ‘official secret’, for even such a Minister or top government of ficer nothing else 24 hours a day but to read and classify documents, he would not be able to go through the mountain of government documents churned out daily.

Or does the Cabinet proposes to establish a new Minister with a Minister of Official Secrets, whose sole job is to read and classify all government documents?

Thirdly, the assurances given by Anwar Ibrahim totally misses the central objections to the OSA Amendment Bill, which provides a schedule of official documents which are regarded as ‘ official secrets’, regardless of whether they are stamped ‘Top Secret’, ‘Secret’, ‘Confidential’ or ‘Restricted’, or whether kept in crossed files or otherwise.

This Schedule in the OSA Amendment Bill is so vast and all-encompassing that virtually all government information would be covered.
For instance, the Schedule provides that “Documents in the nature of or relating to opinion, advice or recommendation concerning the operation and functions of the Government” will cover all government documents already.

Will government narrow the OSA offences to those who ‘steal and sell secret documents’

Cabinet Ministers had been giving different and sometimes conflicting explanations for the OSA Amendment Bill. Trade and Industry Minister, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, said yesterday that the Bill was basically to deter people from “stealing and selling secret document.”

Is the Government prepared to narrow the OSA offences, which attract the mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence, to this category of offenders who “steal and sell secret documents of government?”

His assurance that investors will be able to get all the information they need about government contracts, and need not worry about the Bill, as the investors could see him on whatever documents they wanted, will not impress anyone. For what the people and nation needs is not a government of men, but a government of laws – as there will be arbitrary and capricious government if the people had to depend on the ‘liberalism’ or ‘openness’ or ‘whims and fancies’ of individual Minister for information.

Challenge to Anwar Ibrahim to state what harm would be created if the Bill is referred to Parliamentary Select Committee.
Many Malaysians find Anwar Ibrahim’s role in the OSA Amendment Bill most disappointing, for he should be leading the fight against the OSA Amendment Bill in Cabinet instead of leading the Cabinet fight for the enactment of the OSA Bill!

There is no doubt that if Anwar Ibrahim had remained as ABIN President, he would be spearheading the nation-wide democratic struggle against the OSA Amendment Bill, but this roles and convictions now seem so different from his youthdays of idealism.

I challenge Anwar Ibrahim to explain why he is opposed to the OSA Amendment Bill being referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee, for the widest public discussion on the whole question of freedom of information in Malaysia. What great harm would be created if the Bill is referred to Parliamentary Select Committee?

Does Anwar Ibrahim regard leaking government secrets, which does not undermine national security but merely embarrasses Ministers or government servants because of stupid decisions they make, more criminal than corruption, that the former must be punished by a minimum mandatory one-year jail sentence, while the latter could escape with a small fine? I want to ask Anwar Ibrahim what type of Islamic justice is this, since he is such a great advocate of Islamic values?

Call on Dr. Mahathir to institute an inquiry to find out why Malacca UMNO is so full of scandals involving UMNO leaders.
Two days ago, Malacca again set off political tremors in the country with the report that five people, including a party division official, had been arrested by the police for trying to extort $100,000 from a State political leader, after scaling down their original demand of $800,000.
It is no secret that the party involved is Malacca UMNO, and I do not know whether the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Malacca, where two days are set aside for ‘private’ matters, are related to this scandal.

However, I call on Dr. Mahathir to institute an inquiry to find out why Malacca UMNO is so full of scandals involving top UMNO State leaders, although Malacca is so small a state.

Since Dr. Mahathir’s becoming Prime Minister five years ago, he had preached high moral values to be observed by the people, but the UMNO leadership had at the same time been rocked by the most number of political, ethical and moral scandals!

Rumours about the ‘victim’ of the extortion attempt are making quick rounds in the Malacca State and country, and I call on the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Thamby Cik, to fully clarify these rumours as the people have the right the know the truth, as it affects the political morality of political leaders in Malacca UMNO and Government.