GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Government is not honouring its promise of doing away with statutory declarations for documents obtained via the state’s freedom of information (FOI) laws, says Gerakan.
State Gerakan Acting Youth Chief Jason Loo said his recent application to obtain a copy of the minutes of a state executive council meeting was returned with a letter asking for a sworn statement.
He said the minutes were regarding the purging of a Chinese company from the list of contractors for the undersea tunnel and roads project.
“I was excited when I read that the Penang Government was about to forgo SDs in future applications via the state FOI Enactment.
“But here we go; I got a letter saying my request is being ‘considered’ and asking me to sign a SD.
“What happened to the waiver of SD as promised? Why do we have to be ‘considered’?
“Is the government being kiasu kiasi? (fear of losing and fear of death in Hokkien)” Loo questioned at a press conference at the Gerakan headquarters here today.
Loo had spent RM1,500 in FOI fees to obtain documents related to Penang’s infrastructure project, among others.
He claimed all his applications needed him to comply with a non-disclosure agreement, supported by a SD.
He gave a list of documents that required him to sign a SD:
- Undersea Tunnel- Agreement and approval/award papers between the Penang State Government and Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd to build the undersea tunnel and 3 expressways.
- Undersea Tunnel- Agreement and/or approval/award papers for the related company of CZBUCG to do the feasibility study report of the undersea tunnel and 3 expressways.
- Undersea Tunnel- Itemised expenses for the feasibility study report of the undersea tunnel and 3 expressways that cost RM305 million.
- All the open tender documents submitted to the state government from all companies for the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel mega project.
- Agreement between Penang State Government and Ideal Gim Ventures Sdn Bhd for the Bayan Bay reclamation project.
- Agreement between Penang State Government and Ivory Properties Group Berhad for the Bayan Mutiara reclamation project.
- Taman Manggis Open Tender Documents.
- EXCO meeting minutes regarding the withdrawal of BUCG.
Below is a list of documents applied for by Loo, but not approved, mainly because “they do not have the document”:
- All the Penang Affordable Home Guidelines
- List of Penang Affordable Home projects (the one that was given was an incomplete list)
- Agreement between Penang State Government & PLB to develop affordable home project at Paya Terubong
- Agreement between Penang State Government & PLB to develop “98 Nibong Residence” affordable home project at Sungai Nibong
Previously, state FOI Chairman P Ramasamy had said he would ask the state executive council to remove the necessity for SDs in the future.
The SD requirement, he had said, was purely an administrative measure to prevent misuse and usage for commercial reasons.
Loo declined Ramasamy’s offer to request for documents through him, saying it would be unfair to the public.
Loo reminded Ramasamy that certain information such as Exco minutes may be declassified as per the aspirations of the state FOI Enactment via Section 11(2), which allows the state authority to reveal information of public interest.
“Being an ex-professor who has a PhD qualification, can you tell us whether the issues of affordable homes, undersea tunnel and reclamation are considered public interest?
“The FOI Enactment was drafted and passed by them. So, does Ramasamy know what Section 11 (2) is?
“If yes, why does Ramasamy not respect this section? Does he know what genuine transparency is?”
“If they have nothing to hide, they will gladly declassify the documents for anyone who wants to read them.
“If they are reluctant to do so, then the people have to assume that they do have things to hide!”