Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, at a forum on “Human Rights in Malaysia” organized by the Social Welfare Students Union, University of Malaya at the Institute of Advanced Studies Hall, University of Malaya on Friday, Nov. 28, 1986 at 8 p.m.
DAP to move an amendment to the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill to provide that it should be a defence in a prosecution under the Act that the disclosure of official secret was in the public interest.
Part II of the Malaysian Constitution devotes nine Articles to enshrine life and guarantee fundamental human rights in Malaysia, like the right to personal liberty (Article 5), the right to freedom of speech, expression, and association (Article 10) and the right to freedom of religion (Article II).
In the past 30 years, these human rights had come under systematic attack and subversion, by the government and most seriously of all, by Parliament itself. The most serious attack of human rights is being mounted now in the form of the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill which when passed, will further usurp the powers and functions of Parliament and the Judiciary, turn newspapers into government gazettes, and destroy the most precious of all human rights – freedom of speech and information.
The 1957 Reid Constitutional Commission Report said that “there were “vague apprehensions in certain quarters about the future” with regard to fundamental rights in Malaysia, but the Reid Commission felt that such apprehensions were “unfounded”.
Thirty years later, these apprehensions about human rights in Malaysia had proved to be remarkably prescient, for the history of Constitutional amendments in Malaysia is a history of the systematic undermining and abridgement of fundamental rights in the Constitution.
The Reid Commission Report had argued that “the guarantee of fundamental liberties afforded by the Constitution is the supremacy of the law and the power and duty of the Courts to enforce these rights and to annual any attempt to subvert any of them whether by legislative or administrative action or otherwise.”
The OSA Amendment Bill not only seeks to nullify the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression in Article 10(1)(a), it goes further in at the same time exclude the Courts from reviewing the legality of government in classifying certain information as ‘official secret’, and the provision of mandatory minimum one-year- jail sentence.
The Courts are therefore losing the ‘power and duty’ to annuli any attempt to subvert the guarantee of fundamental liberties by such legislative measures like the OSA Amendment Bill.
The OSA Amendment Bill will seriously undermine the doctrine of separation of powers ‘ among the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary, by concentrating more and more powers and functions of the Parliament and the Judiciary in the Executive.
The government has not been able to give any cogent or convincing reason so far to justify the need for such a draconian and oppressive OSA Amendment Bill. Government leaders had argued that it is necessary to protect government secrets about defence and national security. I agree. But
why is the Government not prepared to limit and confine the scope of the Offficial Secrets Act to only sensitive information affecting the defence and national security?
Some Ministers had said that the OSA Amendment Bill is necessary because tender and contract documents are leaked out. If this is the real problem, I suggest that the Prevention of Corruption Act should be amended to make it an offence of corruption for anyone who uses illegally government information for profit, and impose a mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence!
The biggest problem in Malaysia is corruption, and not leak of government secrets, and yet the government is more concerned about the latter rather than on corruption, to the extent that it is prepared to introduce an OSA Bill which will end up giving protection to corruption in government and political circles.
The UMNO Youth representative at this forum, Encik Samaruddin Rezab, has said that we must ‘liberate’ ourselves from the fetters of colonial laws which had oppressed and denied human rights of Malaysians. But what the UMNO Ministers and leaders are concerned is not to liberate Malaysians but to put more ‘chains’ on the people, like the OSA Amendment Bill.
We must concede that even during the colonial times, they did not have such monstrous laws like the OSA Amendment Bill.
There is no justifification in a democracy for a government to impose a blanket ban on all government information, for it will destroy the concept of accountability and openness of government. Apart from sensitive secrets pertaining to defence and national security, criminal law should not apply in the disclosure, authorised or unauthorised, of government information.
The DAP propose to move an amendment to the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill when it is debated, may be on Dec. 4 or 51 to provide that it should be a defence in a prosecution under the OSA that the disclosure of official secret was in the public interest.
The higher interest of the people to freedom of information, so that democracy can be meaningful, must prevail over the right of Ministers, political and government leaders to be protected from embarrassment if wrongdoing, abuse of power, corruption, poor judgement are exposed publicly.
Anwar Ibrahim t o be asked about the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society
I was asked just now about the position of the re-establishment of the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society. I had thought that this matter had been resolved, because various D Deputy MCA Ministers had been promising that it would be no problem at all.
Apparently, the assurances and promises of the Deputy MCA Ministers are worth nothing. I propose to see the Education Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, to find out what is holding up the formal approval of the re-establishment of the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society.