FOI law has major weaknesses, says Selcat.



27 JANUARI 2015

Selangor’s Freedom of Information (FOI) enactment has some major weaknesses that need to be overcome, says state Select Committee on Compentency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) chairperson Hannah Yeoh.

Yeoh, who is also Selangor state assembly speaker, announced this at a public hearing at the State Secretariat building in Shah Alam today, after listening to the view of four state information officers.

These four officers, from the city councils of Ampang Jaya and Kuala Langat, provided their views on the weaknesses, effectiveness and experience in handling issues on the provision of information to the people.

Yeoh (left) admitted that FOI would require understanding the fine line between giving out information and privacy of individuals.

“Today, we heard that the FOI enactment has some weaknesses, where some individuals are abusing this process for their own benefit,” Yeoh told reporters.

There is a fine balance, she said, between “protecting the privacy of somebody and disclosing information to the public”.

“And in such cases, it is fair for the applications (for this type of information) to be rejected so that the information these people want is safe in the hands of the agency,” she added.

163 applications for information since 2013

There have been 163 applications requesting information since 2013, on matters ranging from information on land issues to requests to view closed circuit camera footage. Of these, only five applications was rejected.

Of the 163 applications, 39 came from the Selangor Public Library Corporation, another 39 from Lembaga Urus Air Selangor, of which five were rejected, 35 from Selangor state Syariah Judiciary Department, five from the state Land and Minerals Office, four from SUK’s corporate office and one from the Land and Irrigation Department.

Yeoh also explained that freedom of information is not just limited to people in the city but to those living in the outskirts of Selangor as well.

“With proper training, these officers can deliver. So, those who maximise the usage will not have a problem. It’s just that those who cannot comment have not experienced it.

In the second half of the hearing, Selangor state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong (left) was called to testify about her role as in the drafting the FOI enactment and in implementing it.

Her duties, Wong said, ended after former menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim resigned.

She said the hearing on the FOI formulation was globally televised as it is important to have a special committee to oversee a new enactment, for it will also provide the public a platform to give feedback.

“It’s a well established practice, especially in the United Kingdom, and we can see how the Selangor state assembly carries this Commonwealth practice,” said Wong who is Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson.

The FOI was gazetted in 2011 and implemented in 2013. The one year gap, Wong said was taken to draft and revise the enactment.

The public hearing today was on the implementation and effectiveness of the FOI.

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