Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Freedom of Information

Both photos courtesy of Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

Article from The Sun:

Selangor tables FOI Bill

By Maria J.Dass

SHAH ALAM (July 14, 2010): The Freedom of Information (State of Selangor) Enactment Bill 2010 was tabled at the state assembly today, paving the way for the public to access information at all state government departments.

Executive councillor in charge of consumer affairs, tourism and environment Elizabeth Wong, who tabled the bill which is a first in the country, said: "More than 80 countries have introduced freedom of information laws and we hope this move will improve the administration of the state because a transparent government is also one that will be more efficient and responsible."

She said the proposed enactment will help reduce corruption and boost accountability in the state’s dealings.

The debate that followed, however, clearly showed a division of opinion among Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen who supported the bill but pointed out the need for some refinements, and the Barisan Nasional assemblymen who described the enactment as "toothless" and one that contravened the Federal Constitution and other laws.

After debate, the bill will go through public consultation, research and study via a select committee, which will table its recommendations to the assembly for third reading. This is expected to be completed by April next year.

These were the arguments today:


> Hannah Yeoh (Subang Jaya):

The word "opportunity" to access information should be replaced with the word "right". The definition of information excludes documents classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972. I hope this does not make the enactment redundant.

Exceptions should be made only if there are threats to health or safety of the state.

I laud the idea of oral information being released to those who are blind and illiterate as this espouses a caring government policy.

The 30-day time frame for information release should be shortened. Applicants for information should be told the status of their application even if it is rejected.

I hope the people in BN held constituencies will realise how much their assemblymen are opposing the right of the public to access information on how their money is being spent, and on the administration of the state.

They (the BN assemblymen) also fail to understand the enactment as they are talking about private pictures and videos being made accessible to all.

> Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Seri Setia):

BN assemblymen should realise this is to their advantage as they now have access to documents and can use it to question us better.

The enactment seems to give the information officer more power compared to the information applicants and I hope that this can be exchanged.

The provision that states that the applicant can consider the application for information rejected if there is no response goes against the spirit of the enactment.

I hope the federal government will emulate us instead of classifying documents pertaining water and toll concessions that affect the public.

> Lau Weng San (Kampung Tunku)

There must be a limit to the amount of fees imposed on applicants.

There needs to be some refinements in terms of copyright issues - on the information receives and whether it can be copied and disseminated.

What about information that overlaps with federal agencies and ministries? Who monitors the information officers? What is the definition of documents that can be released? Does it include correspondence or minutes?


> Suliaman Abdul Razak (Permatang assemblyman)

My BN colleagues and I think it does not comply with the Federal Constitution and the relevant laws. What is contained in this enactment can be disputed in court. It will be toothless in terms of punishment and action against those who go against the provisions.

If I bring up the intention of PR tabling this enactment, I will be accused of being afraid of my own shadow. What about the privacy of the people, what happens when their private pictures and videos are made accessible to all?

> Ismail Sani (Dusun Tua)

This enactment goes against the federal constitution and laws. It is a game played by PR to show they care about transparency. This is a waste of time because the Mentri Besar now has the power to declassify documents under Section 2(c) of the Official Secrets Act.

The appointment to the appeals board is also questionable as the people appointed are bound to be political buddies of those in power. -- theSun


Turtle said...

"The definition of information excludes documents classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972. I hope this does not make the enactment redundant."

Exactly my impression when I read the document last weekend. Nevertheless, it is still very useful to us since my resident association can now find out why and how so many crazy things go into the plan of our housing project. I wouldn't be surprise to find out more surprises.

Lee Wee Tak said...

the arguments presented by BN and PR give a very clear picture as to the depth of intellect and rational between the 2 sides

no contest

Purple Haze said...

I agree with Lee Wee Tak.

The BN argument against is just so weak ... it is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Abolish the OSA esp on govt contracts & tenders. We need to scritinise the toll and tariff to IPPs.
BN Govt is abusing and hiding behind this act cos everything is categorised under OSA.
Toyo and co. if you have no guilt then support this 101% !!!