OSA needed to seal ministers’ mouths, Dr M says

A. Ruban
Dr Mahathir said the government must keep some matters secret so that Cabinet members can make sound decisions. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — Scrapping the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) would hinder the federal government’s work at the Cabinet level, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, indicating the law will stay despite the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition’s promised revision prior to GE14.

Dr Mahathir told news portal Malaysiakini that the Act was necessary to prevent ministers from speaking publicly about discussions confidential to the government.

“If you don’t want to have OSA, we can [do it]. [But] there will be no government because we are restricted, we cannot talk freely in the Cabinet because it will be known to the people.

“There are things we must keep secret... For example, if we tell everything we discussed in the Cabinet, a lot of us will be hammered, you see,” he was quoted saying.

Dr Mahathir said the government must keep some matters secret so that Cabinet members can make sound decisions.

He acknowledged that the OSA is not perfect, but pointed that there would be no room for abuse if the elected government adhered to the rule of law.

“The last government did not follow the rule of law. They did what they liked with the law.

“The main thing is to find a government that will not break the laws,” he was quoted as saying.

Besides the OSA, Pakatan Harapan had in its election manifesto promised to revamp the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, Witness Protection Act 2009 and to enact a Freedom of Information Act.

The OSA was used by the previous Barisan Nasional government had used the OSA to classify the Auditor-General’s (A-G) report on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal as official secret.

Then Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli was sentenced to 18 months’ jail for releasing part of the report, but did not serve his sentence after PH took over Putrajaya.

On May 12, the A-G report on the matter was made public.

Last month, Dr Mahathir promised that his administration will not hide Public Accounts Committee reports under OSA.

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