KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) voiced their disappointment that the report by the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) will remain under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

“Not only is the CEP Report being classified secret, but the deputy minister is also saying every country needs a form of OSA. What we really need in Malaysia is for the OSA to be completely reviewed and for the Freedom of Information Act to be enacted.

“At the moment, under the OSA, any document can be classified secret once it has been certified as such by a public officer. The courts have no jurisdiction to review whether or not the document should be considered secret,” said CIJ Executive Director Sonia Randhawa.

Sonia said that OSA should only be confined to documents concerning national security, defence and international relations or “other clearly and narrowly defined criteria”.

“Instead, highway concession agreements have been classified secret. The air pollution index was once classified secret. Draft legislation has been classified secret. The Auditor General’s Report on 1MDB was classified secret,” she said.

She also reminded the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration that they had promised in their election manifesto to revise the Official Secrets Act 1972 and to enact a Freedom of Information Act.

“It is not enough for the government to say it won’t abuse the OSA. It must be comprehensively reviewed so that no government, whether this one or the next, will be in a position to abuse this law, as it has been done so often in the past.

“Meanwhile, even if the CEP Report has been classified secret, it is high time the government releases the Institutional Reforms Committee Report which contains recommendations on reform to key institutions in this country,” she said.

Earlier today, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said the CEP report will remain under the OSA only to protect confidential information and not to conceal wrongdoing.

He said this was unlike the previous Barisan Nasional government which used the OSA to conceal corruption.

“We were not unhappy with the OSA itself, but (back then) the OSA was abused. It was used to protect corruption, abuse of power and tyranny,” Hanipa, had told the Dewan Rakyat today.

He was responding to a question from Wong Kah Woh (Harapan-Ipoh Timur) who had asked whether the government planned to make the CEP report public.