(Muar, Friday): Japanís Parliament has just unanimously passed into law the Freedom of Information Act to increase public access to government information. The freedom of information law allows individuals to request documents from national ministries and agencies. Those requests can be turned down if they touch on military, diplomatic or police matters or personal privacy.
Last week, I attended a conference in Bangkok on the role of Parliamentarians in South East Asia to fight corruption, with participants from other South East Asian countries. What struck me most from my discussions at this conference was the vibrant nature of the democratic and civil society in other South East Asian countries, especially the Philippines and Thailand, with Malaysia straggling behind as one of the last hold-outs in the region against greater democratisation and the development of a more vibrant civil society.
In the Philippines and Thailand for instance, there are Freedom of Information Acts which is not the case in Malaysia.
What we have instead is one of the most repressive Official Secrets
Act in the world, even more draconian that the original Official Secrets
Act which Malaysia inherited from the British colonial masters, and is
being used to stifle freedom of information, speech and expression.
The time has come for Malaysia to enact a Freedom of Information Act to demonstrate that Malaysia is ready for the Information Age which requires a completely new government mindset towards the peopleís right to information.
The next general elections is shaping up to be one of the most important general elections in the nationís history, where the Barisan Nasionalís predominant control of Parliament could be removed by the denial of its traditional two-third parliamentary majority.
I believe the removal of the Barisan Nasionalís two-third majority in the next general election will provide a catalytic push for Malaysia to become a more open, democratic and accountable society - even making it possible for Malaysia to adopt a Freedom of Information Act and the abolition of the Official Secrets Act.