Heading towards transparency and accountability except MALAYSIA

February 24. 2016

Heading towards transparency and accountability except MALAYSIA

by Wan Saiful Wan Jan


The Attorney-General aims to ensure government efficiency by protecting information that has not been fully decided upon, but regaining public trust must be his top priority.

THE Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an initiative that was formally launched in 2011 by eight founding countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Britain and the United States.

On its website, the OGP is described as “a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.”

The OGP now has 69 participating countries. To become a member, a country must announce their support of the Open Government Declaration and devise an action plan on how they will improve transparency and accountability.

We are persuading the Malaysian government to sign up for the OGP. To qualify as a member, we need to score at least 75% in the OGP eligibility scoring system. We are almost there, with a 2014 score of just over 62%.

Being a member of the OGP indicates a government’s commitment to good governance. No wonder then that the level of interest in the OGP is increasing. More countries are looking into the framework.

At the bi-annual OGP Summit, the number of participants has always been very healthy. We took part in the last two OGP Summits in Bali and Mexico City.

The level of enthusiasm from governments, civil society and even from some parts of the private sector was visible at these Summits. And I am really pleased that there were also other organisations from Malaysia who attended the Summit.

The hurdle that is blocking our entry is in the areas of asset disclosure by public officials and public access to information. But the level of interest is increasing, both globally and in Malaysia, as more and more people see the value of government openness.

It was unfortunate that while society and the world as a whole are showing greater interest in openness, our Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali announced that he wanted to strengthen the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

He was reported to want an increase in the punishment for those who leak Government secrets to life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane. He was also reported to have said that journalists who protect their sources may be charged.

There was an immediate uproar from civil society. Many are unhappy with Apandi’s desire. Even former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman was reported to have expressed unease with Apandi’s statement. Abu Talib reminded Apandi that the world is moving towards more transparency, not secrecy.

Abu Talib is right. The world is indeed moving towards greater transparency. Apandi’s statement made it sound like he is stuck in the Soviet era.But we should be fair to Apandi. Despite the public impression created by his statement, he actually does have a point.

In order to operate effectively, all organisations, including the Government need to have secrets protected. If information is released when it is not yet fully decided upon, all sorts of misunderstandings can be created.

But the desire for efficiency must be balanced with modern day demands for transparency. When high-ranking officials like Apandi speak about enhancing secrecy without promising improvements in transparency, it can only be expected that many people would be cynical about the motives.

On top of that, Apandi should remember that he faces an uphill battle when it comes to trust. Many people still have questions about the removal of his predecessor.

I say this with great sadness. It is depressing that we have come to a situation where it does not matter if Apandi is the most honest and the most professional Attorney-General in history.

There are people out there who just simply do not trust him. This makes it an uphill battle for him to command respect from all segments of the public.

Going back to his statement on the OSA, even if he said it with the purest of intentions, it is not easy for him to convince everyone that he is behaving professionally. He just simply does not command full public trust yet. As a result, no one even noticed that his desire to ensure Government efficiency is a laudable one.

With all due respect, my suggestion to Apandi is that he should concentrate on earning public trust first. He should avoid making statements that would erode trust because it would not help him in performing his duties. Earning trust must be his top priority.

Apandi should take advice on how to present a progressive image so that he can bring back the credibility of the office that he now holds. Only then would he be able to delve into controversial issues without creating more damage to the institution.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.


4 thoughts on “Heading towards transparency and accountability except MALAYSIA

  1. Quote:- “…it would not help him in performing his duties”


    He had only one duty. He already performed it and is now ready to “retire”

  2. What can you expect from an ass-pandai whose main priority is to ampu bodek???

    What can you expect from someone whose DNA is wired to be an orang suruhan? Wan Saiful is being politically correct in his comments. Otherwise, MCA owned The Star will not carry his article.

    Najib is not interested in good governance. All he has done so far is to take money for himself, Rosmah and his UMNO cronies.–Din Merican

  3. UMNO leadership implicitly says so.what if Najib is corrupt, dictatorial, scandalous? They even ignorantly says Mahathir stole more (may or may not be true) and lost more, even more ruthless. NOT an inkling its besides the point. Najib knows it but if the division leaders are that dumb, why should he not try and fool the masses too? Between vote rigging, buying, and enough ignorant leaders and masses, he could get away with it. After all, he can argue, the alternative ( which need not be true) is that dunce Muhiyiddin or even worst Mahathir’ s son?

    The point is there is not an inkling, the entire system is all messed up, everything seen and have is based on illusion – its a Ponzi scheme. No country can be governed when power is the ultimate ruler. Without public trust, collapse will come eventually. There is nothing to suggest they have an idea how to win it back..

  4. we all like our children to be successful. But that like is not enough. From day one we have to educate the child. drink milk,eat solids then to do it by themself. Then we have ahost of other things that have child needs to learn before going to pre-school and then on to primary school, secondary school, and on to tertiary education. Along the way different people are teaching the child with the parents keeping an eye on the child all the time. If the child makes a wrong turn the parents and teachers must be there to correct the child. Otherwise the child will assume what he or she is doing is right and will do it throughout life.

    Hence our objective to have a successful child in adult life is the objective. Then step by step we as parents and teachers have to do the right thing to help the child achieve that objective. It is no use paying lip service to good upbringing and then do nothing about it.

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