DAP will propose amendments to the OSA Amendment Bill during Committee stage to delete the mandatory minimum one-year jail sentences and the all-encompassing definition of ‘official secret’

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP For Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, at the Aliran public forum on the Official Secrets Act held at the Penang Chinese Town Hall on Tuesday, 25th Nov. 1986 at 8 p.m.

DAP will propose amendments to the OSA Amendment Bill during Committee stage to delete the mandatory minimum one-year jail sentences and the all-encompassing definition of ‘official secret’

From the statement of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, in Malacca on Friday, it is clear that he will not brook dissent within Barisan Nasional ranks on the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill, and has laid down the law in his meeting with Barisan Nasional MPs yesterday that the Whip would be applied requiring the MPs to vote for the Bill.

The government seems to have given up the attempt to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians on the need for the Bill, and is going on the basis that the government, with the fourth-fifth parliamentary majority, knows what is good for the people who are too simple-minded to be given reasons and information to make up their own minds. This is not only arrogance of power at its worst, but most undemocratic and authoritarian.

It is also clear that the various ansurances given by top government leaders, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Ghaffar Baba, that the government would study the views of all parties on the Bill is an empty one, for the Government has no intention even to meet the various groups and Malaysians who had expressed their opposition to the OSA Amendment Bill.

This should serve as a reminder as to how weight the people should give to government assurances, for instances, that the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill would not be abused.

Cult of government secrecy has become oppressive even before passage of OSA Amendment Bill.

When the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill is passed, a blanket of secrecy would cover all government information, with the cult of
secrecy in government reigning supreme. The climate of secrecy, fear and cowed silence would make it impossible for Malaysians to enjoy an open and good government.

The cult of government secrecy has become very oppressive even before the passage of OSA Amendment Bill, and it could only become more impossible after.

MPs and the people were given an example of this cult of secrecy in government during my motion to cut the salary of the Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, by $10, in order to censure the Finance Minister for numerous scandals like the$1.5 billion Co-operative Finance Scandal, the UMBC scandal, The EPF-Makuwasa shares dealing scandal and the 1981 London tin-buying scandal through the $2 company, Maminco.

I had challenge the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Sabarrudin Cik, who was holding the fort for Daim Zainuddin, who did not even appear in Parliament to face his ‘censure’ motion, to clarify in Parliament the conflicting version between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, and former Prime Minister, Tun Hussien Onn, as to whether the Cabinet had approved the Maminco operation in 1980. This was claimed by Dr. Mahathir but challenged by Tun Hussien Onn who said he was not aware of any Cabinet decision in 1980 committing the Government to enter the tin market.

When I pressed for date and details of the Cabinet meeting which in October 1980 purportedly approved the establishment of the $2 company, MAMINCO, both the Deputy Information Minister, Kassim Admad, and Datuk Sabarrudin Cik, jumped up claim that this is a ‘secret’ which could not be disclosed.

This is a good example of how Barisan Nasional leaders do not understand the meaning of a democracy, where the government information is merely a trustee of the people and not their masters. All government information is the property of the people, who have the right if access to it, unless there are exceptional reasons why they should be kept secret, such as for reasons of defence, national security, economic survival, etc.

Are the Barisan Nasional leaders suggesting that if the date the Cabinet decided in 1980 to establish Maminco to intervene in the London tin market were disclosed, the security, stability and economic position of Malaysia would be irreparably demaged? In fact, if the government disclose the date and details of the 1980 Cabinet decision to establish Maminco to intervene in the London tin market, no harm whatsoever but much good would be achieved. It would further the concept of an open, accountable and responsible government.

The revelation of the date and details of the purported 1980 Cabinet meeting approving the establishment of Maminco would show who is mistaken or telling an untruth – Dr. Mahathir or Tun Hussien Onn. In any event, I cannot believe that the Cabinet could have approved the establishment of Maminco in Oct. 1980 to corner the international tin market when Maminco was incorporated only on 23rd June 1981.
The Cabinet could not be so inefficient to take 9 months to set up Maminco to intervene in an international tin market where the daily movements of the tin prices can be crucial.

From yesterday’s incident, when the OSA Amendment Bill is passed, Ministers and Deputy Ministers will just shout the magic word ‘Official Secret’ to queries by Opposition MPs about government conduct, to avoid public responsibility and accountability for their actions.

The cult of government secrecy will also enable the Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs to openly mislead the Parliament and people, without fear of being exposed – which would involve breach of the Official Secrets Act.

Again yesterday, the UMNO MP for Pendang, Othman Abdul, claimed that Daim Zainuddin negotiated to buy the block of 41% UMBC shares of Multi-Purpose Holdings in 1982, when in fact it was 1984. In future, such open misrepresentations and half-truths would be difficult to contradict and expose without running afoul of the Official Secrets Act.

OSA Amendment Bill seeks to silence the Opposition from raising the corruption and scandals of the administration

The OSA Amendment Bill seeks to silence the Opposition, in particular the DAP, from raising the various corruption and scandals in the administration. It will be a bonus to the corruption and criminal elements in government and public service, who abused their positions of trust for personal wealth and gain.

Three factors must have made Dr. Mahathir more determined to push through with the OSA Amendment Bill despite widespread public opposition and protest.

Firstly, the recent public expose of a series of government scandals, like the UMBC, Maminco, EPF-Makuwasa scandals, which the Government had not been able to satisfy public opinion about the propriety and integrity of government leaders involved.

Secondly, the defeat of the government in the Asian Wall Street Journal court case, where the Supreme Court handed down the great judgement that rule of natural justice on the right to be heard has to be observed in the exercise of Home Ministry powers to expel foreign journalists. Although the Government took its defeat in good grace publicly, and even revoked the suspension order on the Asian Wall Street Journal, privately this has further embittered the government, deepened its distrust of the Judiciary and reinforced its determination to get the OSA Amendment Bill on the statue books.

The third factor is the government’s war on rumours, and its claim, made by Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Sabaruddin Cik, that rumours had adversely affected public confidence in the ecomnomy, contributing among other things, to a situation where in the past three years, gross capital outflow of $3,512 million was almost double the total foreign investment which was about $1,589 million.

Let me advice the Government that greater secrecy will not dispel rumours. The contracy will take place, as rumours thrive on secrecy.

The real way to fight rumours is to have an open and accountable government, where there are no room for rumours to latch on.

DAP to propose that the Bill be referred to Parliamentary Select Committee.

Although the Prime Minister has said that the government would not refer the OSA Amendment Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee, we still hope that the public representations in the next 10 days will succeed in making him to modify this hard-line stand.

I understand that the OSA Amendment Bill would be debated in Parliament on December 5, and in the next 10 days, all Malaysians, whether organizations or individuals, must do their utmost to impress on the Government, the Ministers and Ministers and MPs on the weight of public opinion against the Bill.

During the second reading of the OSA Amendment Bill, the DAP will invoke Standing Order 54 to propose that the Bill be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee.

If this is rejected, the DAP will propose amendments to the OSA Amendment Bill during Committee Stage to remove the one-year mandatory minimum jail sentence as well as to remove the all-encompassing definition of ‘official secret’ in the Bill