Press Statement

Rafizi Ramli’s 18 months’ imprisonment sentence harsh and excessive

14 November 2016

Lawyers for Liberty is appalled at the18 months’ imprisonment sentence imposed on MP Rafizi Ramli by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court today for breaching the Official Secrets Act 1972 when he revealed excerpts from the Auditor General’s Report on the misuse of the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) funds in the 1MDB scandal. He also risk losing his parliamentary seat and his candidacy in the next general election due to the conviction and sentence.

The 18 months’ imprisonment sentence can only be described as harsh and excessive, all the more so as Rafizi was merely performing his role as an elected representative. The conviction and sentence will create a dangerous chill on free speech and result in a more repressive, opaque and unaccountable government.

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 should not 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 and especially so in this case as whatever Rafizi had exposed is clearly a matter of public interest and further no real harm or damage was 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.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

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