Selangor tables FOI Law

Thursday July 15, 2010

Selangor tables freedom of information Bill

By EDWARD R. HENRY
edward@thestar.com.my

SHAH ALAM: The Pakatan Rakyat Government in Selangor created history yesterday by tabling its Freedom of Information Bill 2010 at the State Legislature to strengthen the people’s right to access to information.

As expected, the Pakatan assemblymen supported the Bill while Barisan Nasional assemblymen opposed it during the debate after the Second Reading of the Bill.

Earlier, State Executive Councillor for Tourism, Consumerism and the Environment Elizabeth Wong, who had tabled the FOI Bill for the First and Second Readings, said the new law when implemented would promote transparency and accountability in the state government.

“We encourage all Selangorians to take full advantage of their right to access information and to make government open and accountable. It is only through open government as well as a well-informed and empowered citizenry that democracy can be broadened and deepened in Selangor.”

She said the state government was tabling the Bill to “enhance disclosure of information in the public interest, to provide every individual with a window to access information made at local councils and departments at the state level”.

The Bill provides for one information officer for each state government department to guide the public in accessing the requested documents. The officer has to respond within 30 days, or seven days in the case of life-threatening situations.

Ismail Sani (BN-Dusun Tua) objected to the Bill, claiming it was not relevant and infringed on the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972 passed by Parliament.

“Selangor cannot table such a Bill, as certain information involves departments under the state that needs to obtain clearance from Parliament before it is declassified,” he said.

Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN-Permatang) echoed the same sentiments, and warned that it could bring disaster to the state as political parties could use it for malicious reasons.

“All matters must be weighed carefully. We should not just come up with an enactment to project a transparent and accountable government, but which in reality would bring trouble,” he said.

The debate on the Bill continues today.

(The Sun)

Selangor tables FOI Bill
By Maria J.Dass

SHAH ALAM (July 14, 2010): The Freedom of Information (State of Selangor) Enactment Bill 2010 was tabled at the state assembly today, paving the way for the public to access information at all state government departments.

Executive councillor in charge of consumer affairs, tourism and environment Elizabeth Wong, who tabled the bill which is a first in the country, said: “More than 80 countries have introduced freedom of information laws and we hope this move will improve the administration of the state because a transparent government is also one that will be more efficient and responsible.”

She said the proposed enactment will help reduce corruption and boost accountability in the state’s dealings.

The debate that followed, however, clearly showed a division of opinion among Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen who supported the bill but pointed out the need for some refinements, and the Barisan Nasional assemblymen who described the enactment as “toothless” and one that contravened the Federal Constitution and other laws.

After debate, the bill will go through public consultation, research and study via a select committee, which will table its recommendations to the assembly for third reading. This is expected to be completed by April next year.

These were the arguments today:

FOR:


Hannah Yeoh

> Hannah Yeoh (Subang Jaya):

The word “opportunity” to access information should be replaced with the word “right”. The definition of information excludes documents classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972. I hope this does not make the enactment redundant.

Exceptions should be made only if there are threats to health or safety of the state.

I laud the idea of oral information being released to those who are blind and illiterate as this espouses a caring government policy.

The 30-day time frame for information release should be shortened. Applicants for information should be told the status of their application even if it is rejected.

I hope the people in BN held constituencies will realise how much their assemblymen are opposing the right of the public to access information on how their money is being spent, and on the administration of the state.

They (the BN assemblymen) also fail to understand the enactment as they are talking about private pictures and videos being made accessible to all.

> Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Seri Setia):

BN assemblymen should realise this is to their advantage as they now have access to documents and can use it to question us better.

The enactment seems to give the information officer more power compared to the information applicants and I hope that this can be exchanged.

The provision that states that the applicant can consider the application for information rejected if there is no response goes against the spirit of the enactment.

I hope the federal government will emulate us instead of classifying documents pertaining water and toll concessions that affect the public.

> Lau Weng San (Kampung Tunku)

There must be a limit to the amount of fees imposed on applicants.

There needs to be some refinements in terms of copyright issues – on the information receives and whether it can be copied and disseminated.

What about information that overlaps with federal agencies and ministries? Who monitors the information officers? What is the definition of documents that can be released? Does it include correspondence or minutes?

AGAINST:

> Suliaman Abdul Razak (Permatang assemblyman)

My BN colleagues and I think it does not comply with the Federal Constitution and the relevant laws. What is contained in this enactment can be disputed in court. It will be toothless in terms of punishment and action against those who go against the provisions.

If I bring up the intention of PR tabling this enactment, I will be accused of being afraid of my own shadow. What about the privacy of the people, what happens when their private pictures and videos are made accessible to all?

> Ismail Sani (Dusun Tua)

This enactment goes against the federal constitution and laws. It is a game played by PR to show they care about transparency. This is a waste of time because the Mentri Besar now has the power to declassify documents under Section 2(c) of the Official Secrets Act.

The appointment to the appeals board is also questionable as the people appointed are bound to be political buddies of those in power. — theSun

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About rtimalaysia
Championing for citizen's right to information in Malaysia

One Response to Selangor tables FOI Law

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