State government should enact State Freedom of Information Act

23 06 2008

~ Translation of Ms Teo’s column article in which published in China Press.

Ancient society’s dominant form nothing else but was turning over the throne to another or hereditary. This both, were the rule by man. And the biggest problem of rule by man, is people’s destiny is entrusts completely in ruler’s disposition. If the ruler is diligent, then they should consider themselves lucky. But if ruler is cruel and stupid, the people can only be resigned to bad conditions.

That explains the importance of rule of law. When the rights of people and the responsibility of ruler are clearly construed as law, the ruler’s discretion reduced and people’s safeguard increased.

Access to information is definitely one of the most important fundamental rights of people.
I attended a number of meetings with local councils in the past several months and discovered that oh my God! Even the minutes of meetings were classified as official secrets. I asked the chairperson of local council the reasons for doing so. His reply was “it is our convention”. This kind of thinking, i.e. “only if there are special reasons, all documents are secret” is totally unacceptable. And the most effective way of changing this kind of thinking is by passing the Freedom of Information Bill, to ensure “only if there are special reasons, all documents are accessible by the general public”.

No one knows if PR will continue ruling those 5 states 5 years later. Therefore it is crucial for PR to pass laws to guarantee the people’s rights to access to information, which, I believe, is even more meaningful than giving rice or sugar to the people. Not only that, with the bill being passed, PR will be able to play a more important role even if they are not in control of these 5 states.

It is still arguable if the State Freedom of Information Bill will contradict with the Federal Official Secret Act. In that case, the State authority should fight vigorously on merits, and not adopt a conservative approach. Even if the Federal Government eventually decide to sue the State authority, and the Federal Court’s decision is not in the State Government’s favour, the State Government will still win the hearts of people. Furthermore, it will show that the Federal Government has no respect to the fundamental human rights.

In anyway, I think the Menteri Besar of Selangor should not worry too much. Isn’t that his party leader has been repeatedly saying that the Federal Government will be changed after September? In that case, very soon the State Government and the Federal Government will become one family. So, why worry?

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