PETALING JAYA: As Putrajaya gears up to enact a Freedom of Information Act (FOI), an anti-graft group has called for the scope of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to be limited to national security matters.
Transparency International Malaysia president Muhammad Mohan said enacting the FOI would stop the government from “hiding” information on issues of public interest by classifying it under the OSA.
However, he said the scope of the OSA must be adjusted, too.
“We will still need the OSA because issues related to national security must be closely guarded as the government must protect its people and the country against any form of external or internal threats.
“But the scope of the OSA must be narrowed down to cover only issues of national security, while issues related to public interest can come under the FOI,” he told FMT.
Muhammad said the existing framework of the OSA gave government officials too much authority to decide on what Malaysians can or cannot know.
“This must be amended, and under the FOI, other than issues related to national security, public officials must be compelled to provide information to the public when there is a formal request.”
He also raised concerns over the lack of public awareness of the existing freedom of information enactments in Selangor and Penang, implemented in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
Muhammad said there was a need to educate the public on the importance of free flow of information to establish an accountable society rid of corruption.
On Sept 14, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the government had agreed in principle to enact a FOI, with specific parameters and guidelines outlined to facilitate public access to information from the government as well as other public agencies or companies.
The PMO also said that the OSA would be amended accordingly.
Meanwhile, Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi said the FOI was crucial to making the government more transparent and accountable, adding that it would ensure that policymakers make more deliberate decisions while under the watchful eye of the public.
“The act should clearly spell out the type of government documents the public can access and how they can apply for access to those documents,” she said.
Wong also proposed that the FOI have a digitised application process where applications to view government documents can be submitted online.
“Since we want to have better transparency and to hold the government accountable, we should facilitate access and not make the application for documents a hassle,” she said.