Stop misusing the OSA and drop all investigations against Rafizi Ramli
6 April 2016
Lawyers for Liberty is shocked and appalled at Rafizi Ramli’s arrest outside Parliament gates yesterday for breaching the Official Secrets Act 1972 when he allegedly revealed excerpts from the Auditor General’s Report on the misuse of the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) funds for 1MDB that he claimed delayed gratuity payments to army veterans. We are further distressed by the unnecessary and excessive three-day remand order granted today by the Magistrate for the police to complete investigation.
While we accept that certain information should be protected as “official secrets”, for example, information relating to genuine issues of national defence or security, however when it comes to corruption or abuse of power, no moral government in this day and age should hide behind the pretext of “official secrets”.
The balancing of the right of the public to receive information in areas of important public debate, and the interests of the state in withholding it must necessarily involve the type of information. It cannot be a blanket and conclusive ban the moment the authorities concerned certify the information as an “official secret” as is currently the case under the OSA.
Questions must surely be asked as to why the Auditor General’s Report on 1MDB was suddenly classified as an “official secret” when normally it is tabled annually in Parliament and made available to the public.
While the world is moving towards more openness, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government affairs, it is quite deplorable how the authorities were so quick to punish whistle-blowers like Rafizi while taking little or no action against the massive corruption and abuse of power exposed by the 1MDB scandal.
Whistle-blowing are not crimes to be prosecuted. We call upon the authorities to drop all investigations against Rafizi as whatever he had exposed is clearly a matter of public interest and further no real harm or damage has been caused by his revelation.
We further call upon the authorities to stop misusing the OSA to cover up allegations of corruption and abuse of power and to limit its use only in genuine matters of national defence or security. By limiting its use to only genuine “official secrets”, this would remove a dangerous chill on free speech and result in a more transparent and accountable society which is essential to our democracy.
Lawyers for Liberty