PETALING JAYA: The implementation of the freedom of information (FoI) enactments have been inconsistent, according to the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).
Its executive director, Wathshlah G Naidu, said the civil service must be fully equipped to implement the enactments.
“The civil service needs more capacity building and training to implement the enactments,” she said in a webinar titled “#MyRightToKnow in Times of Crisis” in conjunction with today’s UN International Day for Universal Access to Information.
Currently, there are two state enactments on freedom of information – the Freedom of Information (Selangor) Enactment 2011 (Enactment 8) and the Penang Freedom of Information Enactment 2010 (Enactment 16).
The enactments serve to provide for disclosure of information for public interest and the right to access information held by any department within the state governments. Any individual can apply for information by filing an application to the relevant state government departments.
“With the state enactments in Penang and Selangor, we need to look at the numbers of successful and failed applications and the grounds for the applications being rejected,” Wathshlah said.
She also said the culture of secrecy in the civil service was one of the biggest challenges in the people’s right to information (RTI) in Malaysia, adding that archaic laws such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA) should be amended or repealed.
“With this law, Malaysians are afraid to challenge or ask questions due to the repercussions they might face.”
She urged the government to come up with a new law that could create a more progressive information regime.
Meanwhile, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran said FoI was a necessary tool for RTI.
“The public will scrutinise you through FoI application and it helps to change the mindset of how we (the government) work and the decisions we make.
“The biggest challenge in the right to access information is the cultural change within the government itself. Having free-flowing information not only helps the public make informed decisions but also the government in making better policies”, he said in the webinar.
He noted that the FoI application had not been fully utilised yet by the public, adding that the Selangor government had only received around 250 applications per year.