|OSA probe: Gov’t getting repressive, says Ezam|
|It is wrong for the government to invoke the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to investigate three opposition leaders for making public a toll concession agreement, a former victim of the draconian act said.“This is a testimony that (Prime Minister) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s pledge for a more open society is a false statement,” Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, former PKR Youth chief told malaysiakini today.
“It shows desperation on the part of the government to start being repressive by using repressive laws to contain dissident voices,” added Ezam, who now heads a watchdog called Democracy and Anti-Corruption Movement (Gerak).
The opposition politician was asked to comment on the move by the police yesterday to summon three opposition leaders – PKR’s Khalid Ibrahim, Tian Chua and DAP’s Ronnie Liu – to be investigated under the OSA next Monday.
The 40-year-old Ezam was convicted and jailed for two years in August 2002 for releasing secret documents regarding corruption investigations against former Malacca chief minister Rahim Tamby Chik and International Trade and Industry Ministry Rafidah Aziz.
His conviction however was overturned and quashed by a high court two years later when the court found the prosecution had failed to establish its case beyond reasonable doubts.
Shelter for corruption
Elaborating today, Ezam said Justice KN Segara in the judgement to quash his conviction then had pointed out several flaws in the OSA that run contradictory to the constitutional rights of an individual, which the judge noted these flaws need to be rectified.
“That was two years ago, why not the government act on the remarks made by the judge in his ruling? Abdullah should urgently review the OSA rather than use it to suppress the opposition and make it a mockery of democracy.
“What has been proven in my case is that the OSA is not an act that can safeguard the interest of a country and the public. It is merely a shelter for corruption (that was committed) on the part of the government,” stressed Ezam.
He also argued the government could have taken action against Abdullah and ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad if the authorities were not practising double standards.
He was referring to the disclosure of several secret documents by the duo pertaining to the bilateral negotiations with Singapore on the scrapped half bridge during the height of the controversy in July. The documents were declassified later by the government.
“Why is it that the government chose to declassify those documents but not the toll concession which involves the public more directly? They are not willing to declassify it (because) it will expose their wrongdoings,” claimed Ezam.
Meanwhile, Transparency International (TI) Malaysia president Ramon Navaratnam described the development as “unfortunate” and called on the government to practise what it preaches in terms of advocating integrity and accountability.
“It is unfortunate that the law is implemented in this way as it will suppress genuine discussion sincerely undertaken by Malaysians who want to seek more transparency,” Ramon said when contacted this afternoon.
“TI appeals to the government to review and revise the OSA if not to scrap it all together.”
Ramon, who also heads the Centre for Public Policy Studies under local think-tank Asli, questioned the ground to investigate the trio over a document relating to the toll concession, which is not considered as involving national security.
“It is not a matter of grave national security but it is a matter of grave public interest because it involve taxpayers’ money. People have the rights to know how their taxes have been spent whether efficiently or if there are a lot of wastage as reported in the auditor-general’s report.”
Public interest case
He further warned the government’s credibility is at stake domestically and internationally if action is taken on well-meaning citizens who actively seek the truth.
“How can Malaysians be expected to ‘think out of the box’ when this kind of action would put them ‘in the box’?” said Ramon, in referring to the famous phrase that has been emphasised by the premier.
The Civil Rights Committee (CRC) also throw their supports behind the trio.
“It is a public interest case. The people should not be stopped from knowing the truth especially when there have been public grouses over the toll hike. To use OSA against politicians who stand up for the matter would not win public supports,” CRC chief Ser Choong Ing said.
The committee is attached to the influential Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
Reiterating the committee’s stand to repeal the OSA, Ser stressed the government could not shy away from answering public queries over the toll hike after it represent the people to ink the deal with the concessionaire.
“There should be nothing to hide if nothing is wrong in the agreement,” said the lawyer.