KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — Fifty-four civil society groups called today for the declassification of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) report recommending to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government measures to improve governance and the economy.
The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also wanted the Official Secrets Act 1972 to be reviewed and to have its purview limited to national security, defence, international relations, and “other narrowly defined criteria”.
“The fact that a Pakatan Harapan deputy minister is justifying its use to keep secret a report that was crafted for the very purpose of aiding in the reform process, rings alarm bells for civil society about this government’s commitment to reform,” the civil society groups said in a joint statement.
“While we acknowledge that every government needs to be able to keep certain documents confidential in the interest of the nation’s security and well-being, we state categorically that the current OSA cannot be the law that is used to do so.
“The OSA is a deeply flawed law that has been misused and abused to hide criminal acts and government misconduct. It has been used to classify all manner of documents secret, including highway and water concession agreements, city council minutes and the air pollution index,” they added.
The 54 NGOs also called for a Freedom of Information Act and urged the government to release a report by the Institutional Reforms Committee, which was prepared under the auspices of the CEP, that recommended to PH institutional reforms.
Among the NGOs that signed today’s statement were Bersih 2.0, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), and Suaram.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin told Parliament Thursday that the CEP report was classified as a state secret, but said that the PH government was not trying to conceal wrongdoing.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said earlier today that the government may release the report to the public after studying it.