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Abdullah should have announced policy commitment to introduce Freedom of Information Act instead of threatening to ascertain whether action could be taken against Parti Keadilan Rakyat for breaching the Official Secrets Act in making public the LDP concession agreement
(Parliament, Wednesday) : It is very disappointing to read the response of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the publication of the Damansara-Puchong Highway concession agreement between the government and Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (Litrak).
Abdullah said action can be taken against Parti Keadilan Rakyat for breaching the Official Secrets Act if the “secret” toll concession agreement it had made public is classified under the Act.
Abdullah should have announced a policy commitment to introduce Freedom of Information Act instead of threatening to ascertain whether action could be taken against Parti Keadilan Rakyat for breaching the Official Secrets Act in making public the LDP concession agreement.
Can Abdullah explain what national security had been undermined if the government respects the people’s right to know? What has happened to all the government talk about protect whistleblowers to ensure accountability, integrity and good governance?
An announcement and policy commitment by Abdullah to introduce t6he Freedom of Information Act will bring about a sea change in the campaign for good governance and the battle against corruption – for scarcity and even absence of information had been the Achilles’ heel in both campaigns.
It will not only be the most significant step in the 38 months of Abdullah premiership to “walk the talk” to honour reform pledges of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance, but make the 50th Merdeka Anniversary really meaningful and exciting – setting the country in a direction heading towards a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality”.
When he became Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawai pledged a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” government and called on Malaysians to tell him the truth.
All these promises of an open government have come to nought as the people’s right to information is not recognized or entrenched by law.
The right to information holds within it the right to seek information as well as the duty to give information, to create, store, organize and make it easily available, and to withhold it only when it is in the public interest to do so.
The right to information lays the foundation upon which to build good governance, transparency, accountability and participation, and to eliminate corruption.
Research has shown that countries with access to information laws are also perceived to be the least corrupt. Of the ten countries scoring best in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index since the start of the series in 1995, nine had effective legislation enabling the public to see government files. Of the ten countries perceived to be the worst when it comes to corruption, not even one had a functioning access to information regime.
Malaysia should embrace and spread the message that open government with right to access information is the antidote to corruption – and what better way to start on this new approach than on the occasion of the nation’s 50th Merdeka anniversary.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman