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People have a right to know
21/12/2009 The Star

I REFER to the news on the Cabinet decision to declassify the Bukit Antarabangsa Landslide Report that had been restricted under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

The Cabinet decision to declassify the report was a move that members of the public (particularly those affected by the tragedy) had eagerly looked forward to, as they have a right to know the causes of the Dec 2008 tragedy which claimed five lives.

They need to know what went wrong so that similar tragedies can be averted in future.

There is a need for the OSA to be amended so that information of public interest that is not prejudicial to the security, safety and vital interests of Malaysia is freely available to the public.

Section 16A of the Official Secrets Act 1972, which allows the Federal or State head of department, among others, to certify an official document etc. in effect says that the act of the officer (quoted in part) “…certifying to an official document, information or material that it is an official secret shall be conclusive evidence that the document, information or material is an official secret and shall not be questioned in any court on any ground whatsoever.”

The wording of Section 16A effectively ousts the jurisdiction of the courts for Judicial Review of administrative action in certifying the documents etc.

The OSA should be amended to allow for judicial review of documents etc. certified as official secrets so that the courts can decide whether the document etc. has been properly certified as an official secret within the spirit, scope and ambit of the law and not wrongly certified to cover up administrative embarrassments - or worse.


Kuala Lumpur.


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