PETALING JAYA: The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) today criticised the High Court’s decision to dismiss Rafizi Ramli’s appeal against his conviction under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the decision was a “step backward” which seriously undermined the importance of safeguarding the right to freedom of information.
In a statement, she added that the OSA had been “arbitrarily” used to mask corrupt practices and obstruct the public from accessing information related to matters of public interest.
“C4 emphasises that using the OSA to criminalise whistleblowers who expose corruption and mismanagement to the public promotes an environment that breeds corruption primarily because secrecy allows for cases to be squashed without an explanation.
“Over the 45 years the OSA has been in force, we have witnessed how the law has been used as an effective means of ensuring that information on government is kept secret,” she said.
Last November, Rafizi was sentenced to a total of 36 months in jail over two charges of possessing page 98 of the 1MDB audit report and for revealing the contents of the report at the press conference.
The Sessions Court ordered him to serve the two 18-month sentences concurrently.
Earlier today, Justice Azman Abdullah ruled in favour of Rafizi’s conviction.
However, he allowed Rafizi’s appeal against his conviction on the charge of possessing page 98 of the audit report, which had been classified under the OSA by the government.
He also granted the Pandan MP’s application for a stay of execution on the 18-month jail sentence, pending his final appeal.
Cynthia said Rafizi’s conviction should be overturned as Rafizi was carrying out his duty as an MP to protect and uphold public interests by ensuring that transparency and accountability are upheld.
“The act of exposing documents related to the 1MDB corruption scandal involving massive theft of public funds was done to safeguard public interest and therefore should be protected and not be treated as a crime,” she said.
She reiterated C4’s stand that the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB should never have been kept secret as the allegations of corruption surrounding 1MDB were serious allegations that ought to be made public and investigated transparently.
She also urged for an immediate review of the OSA along with the implementation of a freedom of information act.