No freedom of information as long as OSA remains, says lawyer

PETALING JAYA: The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act will not serve its purpose of creating a transparent government as long as the Official Secrets Act (OSA) exists, says constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan (pic).

He said this was because the powers enshrined under the OSA will override the FOI Act.

"The FOI in the Selangor and Penang government is very good and is quite comprehensive. But, the enactment is quite limited if we still have OSA," he said at the "OSA: Time to review or repeal?" forum at Gerak Budaya on Wednesday night.

As an example, he said, if a mentri besar wants to classify something under the OSA because he wants to prevent the public from seeing the document, he can do it.

"This is the problem, as long as we have federal legislation like OSA, I think we cannot truly have a society with freedom of information," he said.

Syahredzan stressed that provisions under the OSA must be clearly defined to protect those who reveal sensitive information of public interest.

At present, he said, individuals charged under the OSA are not given the chance to challenge the charge in court.

"You must be able to challenge it in court – but the OSA does not give you that avenue," he said.

Syahredzan subsequently called for the OSA to be repealed, stressing that such a legislation has no place in modern society.

"I think it's much easier to just repeal the OSA and enact the FOI," he said.

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang said he would ensure that the agenda of repealing the OSA is included in Pakatan Harapan's manifesto.

"It's yet to be discussed with the Pakatan Harapan committee but that will be my commitment," he said.