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Cabinet refusal to make public
toll agreements – is it again “soprano Prime Minister singing alone” or
Cabinet divining that Abdullah never intended to “walk the talk” on
transparency, integrity and good governance?
(Parliament, Friday) : Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu announced yesterday that the Cabinet was not prepared to make public the toll agreements inked between the government and highway concessionaires and that he had suggested that the Cabinet “take appropriate action against the person (or persons) who had stolen and exhibited an agreement”.
Samy Vellu said the agreement is solely between the government and the company and it is a secret document and declared:
"It is classified secret ... a restricted document of the government. It has been stolen by some people and we have suggested we are going to ask the Attorney-General's office to take appropriate action against those who stole the document and exhibited it without the authority, and they have to pay for it."
The Cabinet decision not to make public the toll agreements was taken during the absence of the Prime Minister, but was the Cabinet refusal to make public the toll agreements another example of the “soprano Prime Minister singing alone” without support from his “half-past six” Cabinet, or was it another illustration of the Cabinet divining correctly that Abdullah never intended to “walk the talk” on transparency, integrity and good governance?
Abdullah’s failure to show any results his first 38 months as Prime Minister had been attributed to the lack of support from his Cabinet Ministers whether in the campaign against corruption or public service delivery reform - hence the likening of Abdullah as “a soprano singing alone” without support of his Cabinet Ministers.
This is however a misleading analogy, as Abdullah is clearly leading the Cabinet pack in refusing to take bold and innovative initiatives to ensure government reform, public service accountability, integrity and good governance.
Nobody would believe that the Cabinet decision not to make public the toll agreements had been made without the prior knowledge and agreement of Abdullah before he left for overseas.
In demanding action to be taken against the “whistleblowers” who had made public the Litrak concession on the Lebuhraya Puchong-Damansa (LPD), Samy Vellu has emerged as the “hawk” to perpetuate the cult of government secrecy on highway concessions and the punitive use of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to shield government decisions from public scrutiny and accountability – for which Samy Vellu must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by the civil society and all Malaysians.
It is deplorable that up to now, neither Samy Vellu nor anyone in Cabinet has been able to explain why these privatization agreements and documents, whether highway or water concessions, should continue to be kept secret and denied scrutiny by Parliament, the civil society and the Malaysian citizenry, if the Abdullah administration really believes in accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.
Is anyone in government seriously claiming that an open information regime where such privatization agreements are routinely made public would undermine national security or national interest?
With the latest Cabinet decision to perpetuate the cult of government secrecy, what is the difference between the Abdullah premiership from the previous Mahathir administration and what has happened to the pledge by Abdullah in the 2004 general election for reform, accountability and transparency for which he had won the unprecedented 91% of parliamentary seats?
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has turned the table on government reform, as he is now in favour of the privatization concession agreements being made public.
Is Abdullah prepared to rescind the Cabinet decision to perpetuate the cult of government secrecy on his return from overseas and to embark on a new regime of freedom of information in Malaysia?
Malaysia is now in the ludicrous position where the government is not prepared to make public important information affecting the rights and interests of the citizenry, such as the privatization concessions causing periodic imposition of greater financial burdens for Malaysian across the board, and yet wants to violate the right of privacy of Malaysians with regard to personal information.
There have been snowballing complaints by parents in various parts of the country that schools are requiring them to divulge personal information about their income (which has to be confirmed by the employers) and income tax reference number, when they are not asking for any financial assistance such as free text-book scheme for their children.
Parents who protested at such intrusion into their right to privacy had been told that this was required by the Education Department. No reason is given why the Education Department is demanding such personal information from all the parents.
Is this another example of “Little Napoleons” in government intruding into the right to privacy of parents with regard to their personal information, without any cause whatsoever?
It is regrettable that the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has not taken any action to revoke such intolerable demand violating the right to privacy of parents although this has happened for three weeks for some schools since the start of the new school year.
When will Hishammuddin put the “Little Napoleons” in the Education Ministry in their rightful places?
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