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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mahathir’s confusion regarding the OSA 

Salleh Said Keruak 

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad appears confused regarding the Official Secrets Act (OSA). “I believe (the OSA) is to punish those who leak Government administrative documents on policies, cabinet papers and taxation,” Mahathir said. “They are for preventing the information from being made use of by individuals, companies or foreign Governments to their advantage.” 

Mahathir added, “They are not meant for keeping secret the crimes committed by officers, employees or individuals. Such crimes must be reported or exposed by whoever comes across them. Criminal proceedings should follow.” 

First of all, we need to understand the issue of what a whistleblower is and the rights of a whistleblower under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) 2010. The WPA says that whistleblowers can provide evidence if it is legally available through the course of their work. The catch phrase here is ‘legally available through the course of their work.’ That does not cover data or document theft or information illegally procured. 

This is a very crucial aspect of the WPA that Mahathir either does not understand or he is not telling us. In short, you cannot fight crime by committing a crime. It is as simple as that. 

Next, any document or file stamped RAHSIA comes under the protection of the OSA. As the late Raja Aziz Addrusse sarcastically said in court back in 2002 in the Ezam Mohd Nor case, even if toilet paper was stamped RAHSIA then anyone who is in possession of that toiler paper has committed a crime and can be sent to jail. 

Ezam was convicted and slapped with a two-year jail sentence by Mahathir’s government for a violation of the OSA even though he told the truth. And Ezam’s crime was to reveal abuses by certain people in power. In other words, it is not the contents of the file that matters. It can even be a menu for the departmental dinner, which is not at all sensitive to the security of the nation. It is the RAHSIA classification of that file that would be the crux of the matter. 

As Prime Minister for 22 years, surely Mahathir understands this. Then there are certain files, papers or documents that do not even need a RAHSIA stamp and are automatically protected under the OSA, with or without any RAHSIA stamp. This is so fundamental it boggles the mind that Mahathir does not seem to understand this. And even more perplexing is the fact that Mahathir sent Ezam to jail for doing precisely what he says Malaysians should do.

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