During the debate, Barisan Nasional MPs gave the impression that this was the best digital signature law in the world to prepare Malaysia for electronic commerce, not realising that the Malaysian Digital Signature Bill was based completely on the Utah Digital Signature Act 1995 and which had already been criticised in the United States for various weaknesses and defects, particularly in failing to give adequate protection to the consumers vis-à-vis the Digital Certification Authorities.
Another Member of Parliament even proposed that Malaysia should urge other ASEAN nations to follow our example and enact similar digital signature legislation, not realising that we could be overtaken by other ASEAN nations in this field.
This has now proved to be true. Last month, Singapore announced that it had set up a digital certification authority, known as Netrust, described as the "first Certification Authority in South East Asia" while Malaysia, though the first to pass a Digital Signature Act in ASEAN and even in Asia, has not yet set up any digital certification authorities. In fact, the regulations for the Digital Signature Act which have to be enacted before any Certification Authorities (CAs) could function in Malaysia have not been finalised.
Netrust is a joint venture between the Singapore National Computer Board (NCB) and Network for Electronic Transfers (Singapore) Pte Ltd (NETS) and provides business and government departments in Singapore a complete online identification and security infrastructure to enable secure electronic commerce and other online transactions across the Internet. By being the first in South East Asian country to set up a digital certification authority, Singapore has again stolen a march ahead of Malaysia to position itself as a global IT and commerce hub. It is worth noting that some economists have forecast that commercial transactions on the Internet will rise to US$70 billion by 2000 from less than US$1 billion today.
Malaysians should feel embarrassed that while some MPs claim only three months ago that Malaysia is the leader in digital signature legislation in Asia, and even proposed that Malaysia should urge other ASEAN nations to follow our example, we have now been overtaken by Singapore as the first nation to establish a digital certification authority to facilitate electronic commerce.
This should be a salutary reminder to the Malaysian government and people that it is no use claiming to be the first in this or that field of Information Technology when other countries are actually more advanced, although they go about their IT advances and preparations quietly, with a minimum of publicity.
It is more important that Malaysia should do solid preparation for the transformation of the country from an industry-based into an information-based economy by building a Malaysian Information Superhighway which is comparable to the best in other countries, together with a nation-wide "IT For All" campaign to produce a highly IT-aware, IT-literate and IT-fluent population to provide the necessary humanware without which there is no way for Malaysia to become a information superpower or power.
During the Teluk Intan by-election last May, the Gerakan President and Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik made the shocking revelation that the late Ong Tin Kin, who died of cancer, had not received proper medical attention as he did not have enough money as a result of his political sacrifices to be Member of Parliament for Teluk Intan.
I felt very outraged by such a revelation, for as former parliamentary secretary as well as three-term Member of Parliament, Ong Tin Kin was entitled to full medical benefits from Parliament and to receive the best medical attention available, not only in Malaysia but in the world. There was also the suggestion that Ong Tin Kin would not have died of cancer in April this year if he had received the medical attention he was entitled to.
Ong Tin Kin was entitled to go anywhere in the world to receive the best medical treatment if they were not to be found in Malaysia, and such medical treatment must be fully borne by Parliament.
This is what every Member of Parliament is entitled to. I had said during the by-election that the DAP would take up the injustice meted out to Ong Tin Kin if he had not received the best medical attention from Parliament, even if the Gerakan, with a Cabinet member and several MPs, are not prepared to do so.
During last month’s Parliamentary meeting, I specifically asked the Prime Minister what medical attention had been given to Ong Tin Kin, why he had been denied the best medical benefits and I received the shocking reply that Ong Tin Kin had never asked for any medical benefits from Parliament.
Lim Keng Yaik should explain what is the real position with regard to Ong Tin Kin’s medical attention – as he had told the people of Teluk Intan by-election that Ong Tin Kin lacked the financial resources as a result of his political sacrifices to get the best medical attention possible when Parliament had replied that it had never received any request for medical benefits from Ong Tin Kin.
The question arises whether Keng Yaik and Gerakan had done their best for Ong Tin Kin.