NOVEMBER 10 — The foundation of a functioning democracy is based on three branches; legislative, judiciary and executive. These branches are designed to be independent from one another to prevent any concentration of powers.
This separation of powers is crucial in ensuring check and balance and these branches must hold the highest standards of transparency and accountability.
In April 2018, Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif was reported at the launch of The Malaysian Judgement Portal saying, “All court proceedings in the country, except for sensitive cases involving minors or sexual offences are open to the general public. Judgements and orders are for all accounts and purposes, public information”.
The parliament too keeps records of the debates and speeches which take place in the August House in which hansards are made public and debates are telecasted live online even if the quality of debates are sometimes silly and irrational
In short, the judiciary allows public access and scrutiny, the legislative allows public access and scrutiny — heavy scrutiny if I may add but not the executive.
This branch of government consisting of about 20+ ministers whose decisions will have direct implications to the lives of more than 31 million people does not allow public access to their Cabinet meeting minutes.
This is wrong and must be undone.
Cabinet meeting minutes must be made public to allow people to access the discussion and directly engage the issues head on. It will allows greater public participation in drawing up policies and would pave way for better process of consultations between the government and all the stakeholders and finally will lead to an inclusive decisions.
The minutes should be made public as it will be advantageous to the ministers as it adds credibility in earning the trust of the people. Stakeholders can gauge the level of understanding and be better prepared to engage ministers. The minutes should also be made public so no ministers can even attempt to mislead the public outside.
Their positions and opinions on issues will be recorded and the public will hold them accountable. Certainly, exceptions are allowed when it involves sensitive issues such as national security.
The mechanism for the minutes’ publication can be sorted out — discussions on national security can be redacted and be fully disclosed after a period of time.
Point is that no man or woman shall be left behind, even if they don’t walk in the corridors of power.
Freedom of information must be guaranteed at all level of administration. Let’s see the end of the routine minister’s reply, “the issue of being discussed in cabinet and announcement will be made once the discussion is concluded”.
Ultimately, Malaysia needs to walk towards the direction of transparency and accountability and in tandem with the spirit of Malaysia Baru, let’s not be afraid to walk this path even if no country has walked.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.