Attorney-General Mohd Apandi Ali can't tinker with the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to increase penalties to deter whistleblowers and journalists.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman has accused Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli of being so afraid of the proposed Official Secrets Act (OSA) amendments that he was starting an online campaign to stop it, noted suspended Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang in a statement. “Azalina said that rather than taking his campaign online, Rafizi should debate the issue in Parliament if the amendments to the law were tabled.”

But before the battle for an open and democratic government as well as for integrity in public life was waged in Parliament, added Lim, the proposed OSA amendments must first pass the Cabinet line.

Lim pointed out that even if Attorney-General Mohd Apandi Ali has Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s full blessings to tinker with the OSA, to increase penalties to deter whistleblowers and journalists, he should have the sanction and authority of the Cabinet “to go down such an undemocratic and dangerous path”.

The Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, warned Lim, should stop Apandi in his tracks and send a clear message that he does not have the sanction or authority of the Cabinet to draft amendments to the OSA. 

“There cannot be increased penalties to punish whistleblowers and journalists for leaking or reporting information about corruption, fraud or other malpractices in government.”

The DAP veteran called for the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to be a showdown between those who want an open, incorruptible and democratic government and the rest. “The rest may not mind worsening corruption in Malaysia.”

“They may want a more draconian OSA and other repressive laws to deter whistleblowers and journalists from exposing corruption and mega scandals, in particular grand corruption, in public affairs.”

Paul Low, who joined the Cabinet in May 2013 to promote integrity and good governance, must take a stand, continued Lim. “He should get the Cabinet to send out a clear message that the AG has no Cabinet sanction or authority to draft amendments to the OSA to punish whistleblowers and journalists.”

“If Low fails, he and other like-minded Ministers should submit their resignation from the Cabinet to strike a critical blow for the battle for integrity, accountability and good governance in Malaysia.”

One Minister, recalled Lim, said that there was no “absolute freedom” in this world, be it for members of the public or members of the media, when supporting Apandi’s proposals to amend the OSA. “This is one of the dumbest statements ever made by a Minister.”

It’s a pure figment of imagination of Ministers that those who advocate an open and democratic government and the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) are demanding “absolute freedom”. “It’s sad and pathetic that after nearly six decades of parliamentary democracy, there are Ministers who are not ‘intelligent’ enough to understand that the arguments for open, accountable and democratic governance are not arguments for ‘absolute freedom’.”

The particular Minister even said that Apandi’s proposal to review the penalty under the OSA proves that the leakage of government secrets was becoming more serious, and that such acts can jeopardise national security, lamented Lim. “This Minister should explain how the leakage of Najib’s globally notorious RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ and RM55 billion 1MDB twin mega scandals could ‘jeopardise national security’.”

Source from Free Malaysia Today

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