The “Official Secret Act” will not be amended or abolished, according to the Minister in the Prime Minister Department.
The Official Secrets Act 1972 (Act 88), also known as the OSA, is a statute in Malaysia prohibiting the dissemination of information classified as an official secret. The legislation is based on the Official Secrets Act of the United Kingdom. After criticism of the act for lacking clarity, it was amended in 1986.
The act defines an “official secret” as:
|“||…any document specified in the Schedule and any information and material relating thereto and includes any other official document, information and material as may be classified as ‘Top Secret’, ‘Secret’, ‘Confidential’ or ‘Restricted’, as the case may be, by a Minister, the Menteri Besar or Chief Minister of a State or such public officer [as may be authorised to classify such documents by a Minister, Menteri Besar or Chief Minister].||”|
The Schedule to the Act covers “Cabinet documents, records of decisions and deliberations including those of Cabinet committees”, as well as similar documents for state executive councils. It also includes “documents concerning national security, defence and international relations”.
Malaysia’s Official Secrets Act is a broadly-worded law which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, as well as significant lesser penalties for the actions associated with the wrongful collection, possession or communication of official information. Any public officer can declare any material an official secret — a certification which cannot be questioned in court . The act allows for arrest and detention without a warrant, and substantially reverses the burden of proof. It states that “until the contrary is proven,” any of the activities proscribed under the act will be presumed to have been undertaken “for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of Malaysia.” It is not necessary for the authorities to show that the accused person was guilty of a particular act, and states that even if no act is proved, the accused person may still be convicted on the basis of “the circumstances of the case, his conduct or his known character…”.
Govt won’t amend OSA, says Nazri
by Kevin Tan
by Kevin Tan
KUALA LUMPUR: The government has no intention of amending the Official Secrets Act (OSA) as the Cabinet can declassify any document at any time, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said.
He was replying to a supplementary question from Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (Kota Raja-PAS) who asked whether the government intended to draft a freedom of information act to protect whistleblowers and complement the government’s effort to fight corruption.
Without answering whether the government would introduce such a law, he said the Cabinet could meet to declassify any matter from the OSA.
Nazri earlier told parliament that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) had brought 544 charges against government officials for various offences between 2003 and 2007.
“These involved 436 cases under the Corruption Prevention Act 1997, 67 cases under the Penal Code and other legislations as well as one under the Anti-Money Laundering Act,” he said.
The minister said the ACA would shift its emphasis from enforcement and punitive actions to a focus on internal control by encouraging government departments to work with the agency in various programmes to prevent corruption, misappropriation and the abuse of power.
“This will be implemented through the formation of a Joint Committee to Prevent Corruption, which is an extension of the existing efforts implemented through the Committee for Integrity in Management (CIM),” he added.
The joint committee was linked directly with critical and high-risk agencies, Nazri said. “By focusing on critical agencies, it will have a bigger impact on the effectiveness of corruption prevention efforts in this country.”
Nazri said the ACA would step up its cooperation with the National Audit Department to ensure early action in dealing with government agencies deemed more prone to corruption, abuse of power and impropriety.
The ACA would also pay more attention to “intelligence-based investigation”, particularly those involving syndicated corruption, the minister said. “It will involve the use of intelligence in corruption cases to increase the investigative capability against government departments,” he said.
To a question from Lim Kit Siang (Ipoh Timur-DAP) on whether the government actually had the “political will” to fight corruption considering Malaysia was ranked 43rd on Transparency International’s index, Nazri said the matter was part of Barisan Nasional’s manifesto since 2004.
He said corruption would be difficult to eradicate in a short time and urged the opposition to work alongside the government to stem the practice.
In a press release later, Sivarasa Rasiah (Subang-PKR) said the government must have the “political will” to prevent corruption by drafting a freedom of information act and protect whistleblowers.
“If not, the government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is only making empty promises,” he added.
According to Sivarasa, the government had never declassified any confidential documents of public interests such as the toll concession agreements. “Instead, it is the Selangor state government under Pakatan Rakyat that started to declassify confidential documents as an early measure to improve transparency and governance,” he said.
The PKR vice-president said he had proposed a motion for a freedom of information legislation to be debated in parliament that had been excluded from the current sitting.
Sivarasa’s view was backed by Mohamed Azmin Ali (Gombak-PKR), who highlighted that freedom of information act had been introduced in 55 countries, including Zimbabwe. “The countries that are still behind are Malaysia and possibly Mongolia,” he said when debating the motion of thanks on the royal address yesterday.
Azmin said India had abolished its OSA and enacted a right to information act that allowed every Indian citizen to obtain any information, record or document within 30 days.
On corporate governance, he questioned Malayan Banking Bhd’s (Maybank) purchase of a 100% stake in Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) at the price of RM8.6 billion.
“The acquisition process has been criticised by the financial community as it did not comply with corporate governance standards.
“Maybank paid 4.65 times the book value (of BII) and set a new benchmark for (the purchase of) a bank in Indonesia,” Azmin said, adding that the highest price paid for a bank in Indonesia was about 2.5 times book value