Wee urges Dr M, govt to 'walk the talk' on rule of law

Kalbana Perimbanayagam

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Pakatan Harapan government should “walk the talk”, rather than merely pay lip service to respecting the rule of law, said MCA Deputy President Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong in a Facebook post today.

He was commenting on Dr Mahathir’s recent statement that the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) was here to stay.

“I agree that the rule of law supersedes everything else. Since Pakatan Harapan wishes to preserve the Official Secrets Act that restricts freedom of speech and the press, the ruling coalition must prove through its actions that it will not abuse it, but act in accordance with it,” Wee said.

He said Dr Mahathir’s argument on the need to retain OSA was inconsistent with PH’s previous stand to revise it and enact a Freedom of Information Act.

“The Gelang Patah MP, Lim Kit Siang, once equated OSA to a symbol of death for freedom of speech and accountability, calling on the former government to abolish the Act (to avoid autocracy).

“Even the current Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye also commented that abolishing this act would help nip corruption. So, now to retain the Act, doesn’t it mean that the PH government is going back on its word and disregarding freedom of speech, accountability and corruption?” the Ayer Hitam MP asked.

Wee said regardless of whether the OSA was kept or replaced with new legislation, the present government had to prove that it truly intended to respect the rule of law and the spirit of freedom instead of just saying so. He alleged that the PH government had, in several instances, disregarded the rule of law.

“One of the instances was when the finance minister (Lim Guan Eng) claimed that the Cabinet had decided on July 11 that members of parliament would not be appointed to the board of government-linked companies (GLCs) or the Investment Sovereignty Fund. Yet on July 31, Tun Dr Mahathir helmed the Khazanah Nasional, violating the decision of the highest administration,” said Wee.

“Another instance was when the PH government failed to produce evidence that the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s appointment adhered to parliamentary convention.

He said these two instances showed that PH did not take violations of the rule of law seriously.

He said, unless PH proved that it was serious about upholding the rule of law, it would be hard to convince the people that the OSA would not be subjected to abuse or used to cover up government malpractice.

Wee added that if the OSA was to be replaced by a Freedom of Information Act, it should not refer to related legislation in Penang because it was difficult to obtain information, in contrast with Selangor.

“There are many restrictions, such as statutory oath, no public declaration and so on which do not conform to the spirit of accountability and the pursuit of truth. Besides, it is illegal to prevent the public from obtaining information.”

Wee said, in conclusion, that if the people agreed to keeping OSA, the government must demonstrate its determination to respect the rule of law by clearing the air on the two violations.

“They should amend the more restrictive provisions in the Act to allow any case with public interest and safety regulations in mind. So that the relevant documents are not subject to any restrictions in law and can be reviewed unconditionally by the public.”

Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (left) said Dr Mahathir’s argument on the need to retain OSA was inconsistent with PH’s previous stand to revise it and enact a Freedom of Information Act. -NSTP FILE PIC

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