Ambiga: Release one chapter of IRC report and if govt still standing, why not release the rest?

Former Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan speaks during a forum in Kuala Lumpur January 18, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Former Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan speaks during a forum in Kuala Lumpur January 18, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 ― Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the government should do a pilot project by releasing just one recommendation by the Institutional Reform Committee (IRC), of which the report is still not made public until now.

She said that if the government still does not fall after the partial release, and it should have nothing to worry about and therefore can make public the rest of the document that was in storage since July 2018.

“I think they can do a pilot [project], release one set of recommendations [by IRC] and see whether the government falls down the next day. If it does, then okay don’t release the report,” she said, laughing at a forum titled “IRC Report.  Why the secrecy?” organised by the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) today.

In October last year, prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the confidential report by the IRC and its seven recommendations that have been passed to the quasi-official Council of Eminent Persons can only be made public once all Pakatan Harapan (PH) component parties agree to it.

Dr Mahathir said he alone does not have the authority to do so despite being prime minister, in reply to lawyer and former IRC member Ambiga during the regional LawAsia Constitutional and Rule of Law Conference 2019.

Ambiga said she does not know the real reason why PH did not want it to be released but she would “charitably” assume that it is because of public and voters’ perception towards the already much-criticised administration.

“Perhaps one, they don’t want the public expectations to be raised and then if they don't deliver, it's a reflection on them. That's a possibility.

“The other one is they don't want any negativity and cold water being poured on any of the suggestions. Perhaps, now that's a very charitable way of looking at their reasons for not releasing [the IRC report],” she said.

As part of the team, Ambiga said by withholding the report, the government has denied the public and their own supporters the opportunity to be involved in making the country a better place, something that was promised by PH when they rolled out their election manifesto before 2018 election.

“But you know what, if it is just the chapters that affect them, that's fine too, but I don't even know who has received this report and my concern is, if we don't know then that means there is duplication of work, because there is reform measures taking place.

“So for me, why did we go through that exercise, and you know something, if only they had seen how engaged the public was. Then they will understand how much goodwill of the people they had. People just came and did the work with no payment, no nothing,” she said.

The IRC finalised their report in June 2018, with seven recommendations for revamping the structure of judiciary appointments; limiting the concentration of executive power on a single individual; abolition of oppressive legislation, namely the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012; reform in enforcement and government agencies; parliamentary reforms; and vetting processes for key public appointments with the aim of achieving a corruption-free society.

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