DAP calls for fullest public discussion on cyberbills before Parliament starts debate on the digital signature bill and computer crimes bill on April 9

Media Conference Statement (I)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): At DAP “IT For All” Conference at the Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur last Sunday, I had promised to hold a discussion in Parliament House where lawyers, computer enthusiasts and interested members of the public could have a forum to exchange views on the first batch of cyberbills, as a guide to MPs when debating the cyberbills.

At that time, nobody had seen anyone of the cyberbills although the country was told that four cyberbills would be presented in the current meeting of Parliament, on digital signature, computer crimes, multimedia intellectual property and telemedicine development.

On Tuesday, after the official opening of Parliament by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, MPs were given the Digital Signature Bill and the Computer Crimes Bill and were informed that debate on these two cyberbills would begin on April 9, immediately after the end of the 9-day debate on the motions on the Royal Address. We have not received the Copyright Amendment Bill or the Telemedicine Development Bill.

The Government has promised the world that Malaysia would have the best cyberlaws in the region, which is one of the undertakings in the 10-point Bill of Guarantees to promote the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and catapult Malaysia into the Digital Era.

However, the time given for MPs and those interested to study all the ramifications of the proposed cyberlaws are clearly inadequate.

For instance, I dare say that the overwhelming majority of the MPs have no notion at all as to what is a digital signature, how encryption works, what is a public key and a private key.

MPs do not have to become information security experts in order to enact the Data Signature Bill, but they should at least know what they are putting on the statute books.

I had suggested to the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie to post the cyberbills on the Internet to welcome public discussion, feedbacks and inputs from Malaysians as well as the larger cybercommunity before Parliament start debating the bills.

However, the government does not seem to have any intention to begin to use the new information and communication technologies, let alone be a model user, and the government may have a long list of reasons why it is not yet possible in Malaysia at present for the bills to be posted on the Internet.

In the Information Age, the proper mindset is not why it is not possible for certain things to be done in a new way, but why it could not be done! The Prime Minister has said that “Malaysia Boleh” should be a national motto, but the motto of some the Cabinet Ministers seems to be “Mana Boleh?”!

There are no reasons why bills or government reports - whether running into tens or hundreds of pages - could not be posted on the Internet. In fact, it is easier and faster to post bills or reports on the Internet than to print out the hard copies as the bills are already in electronic form.

I had invited the government to make history by posting bills on the Internet but the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts has turned its back to the future.

As the government has declined to make history, the DAP had made history on Wednesday when we posted the Computer Crime Bill on the net - the first bill in Malaysia to be up on the Internet, as a national service as another step in bringing Malaysia into the Information Society and as an example and demonstration to the government as to how easy it is to do this.

I had then invited the government to post the Digital Signature Bill on the net, stating that if it does not do so, the DAP is prepared to do another national service and give another demonstration to the government as to how easy it is to put public documents on the Internet.

I wish here to announce that apart from the Computer Crimes Bill, the Digital Signature Bill, is also now on the Internet, through the National DAP homepage, which is accessible through http://www.malaysia.net/dap or the mirror site, http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/3399. The full Digital Signature Bill will be up today and tomorrow.

I repeat the government would have been able to post Bills on the Internet faster than the DAP as it has the diskettes of the bills which we don’t. It does not put the government in any good light that despite its vast resources, it must depend on the DAP to post bills on the Internet and I hope it can immediately take a policy decision to put all bills on the Internet as a matter of course.

The most ideal site for the bills to be posted would be the Parliamentary homepage, which would also be the first step to make the Parliamentary homepage interactive and come alive!

The cyberbills are to facilitate Malaysia’s transition to an Information Society, where there would be a fuller public participation in the law-making process. Let us therefore making a proper start with the enactment of the first cyberbills in the country, by ensuring that there would be the fullest public discussion on cyberbills before Parliament starts debating on the digital signature bill and computer crimes bill on April 9

As Parliament has fixed April 9 to start debating the cyberbills, time is very limited, and Sunday, April 6 would appear to be the latest available date for me to fulfil my undertaking at the DAP “IT For All” Conference to host a cyberbill forum in Parliament Building to allow for a free exchange of views on the cyberbills, and I was thinking of holding one on Sunday, April 6, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

However, there is now a new and better development, as I am in discussion with the Chairman of the Backbenchers Club, YB Ruhainie bin Haji Ahmad as to whether such a public discussion could be convened in the name of MPs from all political parties. Both Ruhanie and I spoke on IT at some length in the debate on the Royal Address and we are both agreed that IT is a national issue which should rise above party political differences.

In view of this, I would like to ask those who have already indicated their interest to participate in the cyberbill forum as proposed at the DAP “IT For All” Conference to be patient and to await further announcements.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong