MEDIA STATEMENT DATED 19 AUGUST 2015
19 AUGUST 2015
I read with disappointment the excuses given by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Paul Low in the Star report titled Malaysia not ready for Freedom of Information Act.
It is appalling to note that even with such a bloated Cabinet, no Minister is able to work on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. He said, "To (set up) FOI, you may need 300 people to deal with so much information, so it's not an Act alone. You need information officers. At the moment, that's not feasible”.
The Selangor State Government has enacted the Freedom of Information legislation in 2011 and came into force in 2012/2013 after its Rules and Regulations and Appeal Board were put in place. To examine its implementation and effectiveness, the Special Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency (SELCAT) conducted a public hearing in early 2015 and summoned all Information Officers to give an account.
In Selangor, we have a total of 41 Information Officers. Training did not cost the state government much, only RM4,362. Allowances for the Information Officers amounted to RM246,000. The FOI, like all other legislations has its shortcomings and would require tweaking from time to time but SELCAT was open enough to conduct a public hearing and made its findings available online. The report has been tabled, debated and passed in the State Assembly in April 2015. The Selangor State Government has similarly tabled their response to our recommendations in the current on-going session of the State Assembly.
It takes political will to enact the FOI legislation. Without it, you will get precisely what Paul Low is talking about – excuses. A government that has problem disclosing information to the taxpayers is one who has many skeletons to hide. It is unfortunate that despite being a former President of Transparency International, Paul Low has diminished the value of government transparency.
Paul has gone on to say that while some official information might be declassified, it would need a change of culture in both government and society. I offer a correction to the honourable Minister’s statement that what we need is not a change of culture in government but a change of government itself. Selangor and Penang have shown the way to freedom of information, we are ready to show Paul Low and this new Cabinet of PM Najib how we can do the same for Putrajaya.Hannah Yeoh
Chairman of SELCAT
Speaker of the Selangor State Legislative Assembly