Punishment for whistleblowers uncalled for, says former A-G

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman believes the proposed sentence for whistleblowers under the Official Secrets Act 1972 ran counter towards transparency and openness. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 9, 2016.
Former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman believes the proposed sentence for whistleblowers under the Official Secrets Act 1972 ran counter towards transparency and openness. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 9, 2016.

The proposed sentence of life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane for those who leak state secrets under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA) is “disproportionate” to the offence, says former attorney-general (A-G) Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman.

The proposed amendments also ran counter to the rest of the world’s march towards transparency and openness, said Abu Talib.

While he believed that some restrictions should be placed on such, in the country’s interest, Abu Talib urged current A-G Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali to reconsider the amendments.

“That is out of proportion. What an impression it will have on the world. I think he should review this proposal in the interest of the nation and people.

“The sentence is disproportionate to the nature of the offence,” Abu Talib told The Malaysian Insider.

He said it was also inconsistent with the fact that everyone had the right to know.

“All over the world, they are all moving towards more transparency. And the public should be given the right to know what’s happening.

“So his proposal, I think, would have to be considered carefully in the context of the right of the people to know.”

But he urged the people not to take Apandi’s proposal “so seriously”, as it would still have to be submitted to the Cabinet for review before being brought to Parliament.

Meanwhile, Datuk Paul Low (pic) echoed Abu Talib’s opinion that life imprisonment for leaking secrets under OSA was excessive.

“You cannot put it (leaking state secrets) in the same category as murder. The only exception may be if it has to do with espionage or leaking secrets that actually endanger other people’s lives and national security.

“Otherwise, people who leak information under OSA to expose wrongdoing should actually be protected,” said Low, minister in the prime minister’s department.

He added that the government should not impose just one form of sentencing for the leakage of secrets, as some secrets may pose less of a danger to national security than others if made public.

“So the government must weigh how detrimental it is if certain information is leaked out. We cannot move to a mode that everything is secret.

“When you do that, you are moving backwards and away from being accountable and transparent.”

But Datuk Seri Azalina Said Othman, another minister in the prime minister’s department, said Apandi’s proposal was timely as civil servants were leaking too much information to the public. – February 9, 2016.

 

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