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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tightening OSA grip to protect perpetrators?

Amendments to strengthen the Official Secrets Act (OSA) proposed by attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali will turn Malaysia into a dictatorship, said veteran lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan.

"This is not about protecting sensitive security information but about not allowing the truth to emerge about corruption and abuse of power of those in the high echelons of power.

"Any such amendments will make us a complete dictatorship," Ambiga told Malaysiakini.

Apandi yesterday told Sin Chew Daily that Apandi wants to strengthen the OSA so whistleblowers and journalists who protect them can be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ambiga, who is former Bar Council chairperson, slammed the move against the media and urged the public to protest attempts to "muzzle the press".

"Without a robust international and domestic press, the public would be clueless about a massive financial scandal and its perpetrators," she said.

Disproportionate enhancement

Meanwhile Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Operations Review Panel member Lim Chee Wee said amending the OSA is against what Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak stands for.

"Any disproportionate enhancement of punishment would contradict the prime minister’s position as 'a prime minister of a progressive, liberal nation'; as declared in his (Najib's) opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 October 2011," Lim told Malaysiakini.

Lim, who is also a former Bar Council chairperson, said that life imprisonment for whistleblowing is justifiable in cases such as when Malaysia's defence strategy is leaked and harms the country.

"However, if the secret is evidence of misappropriation of government/retirement funds by a prime suspect, then the punishment not only does not match the crime, it is not a crime at all but a whistleblower act, a praiseworthy not punishable act," he added.

An ‘official secret’ under the OSA include any information, document or material that may be classified as ‘Top Secret’, ‘Secret’, ‘Confidential’ or ‘Restricted’, by designated ministerial officials or designated public officials

The Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 does not protect those who leak state secrets from classified documents.

The current punishment for leaking OSA documents is a jail sentence of between one to seven years.

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