KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 – Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak says that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad appears confused over the Official Secrets Act (OSA). In his latest blog (sskeruak.blogspot.com) posting here tonight, Salleh quoted Dr Mahathir’s statement: “I believe the OSA is to punish those who leak Government administrative documents on policies, Cabinet papers and taxation.”
He said Dr Mahathir had also said the OSA was to prevent information from being made use of by individuals, companies or foreign governments to their advantage, and it was not meant for keeping secret the crimes committed by officers, employees or individuals.
Dr Mahathir had said such crimes must be reported or exposed by whoever comes across them. Criminal proceedings should follow. Referring to Dr Mahathir’s statement, Salleh said first of all, everyone needed to understand the issue of what a whistleblower was, and the rights of a whistleblower under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) 2010. He said 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 Dr Mahathir either does not understand or he is not telling us. In short, one could not fight crime by committing a crime, and any document or file stamped ‘RAHSIA’ (TOP SECRET) comes under the protection of the OSA,” he added.
Salleh said, as the late Raja Aziz Addrusse (a lawyer and former Bar Council president) sarcastically said in court back in 2002, on the Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor (former chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat Youth) case, even if toilet paper was stamped ‘RAHSIA’, then anyone who was in possession of that toilet paper had committed a crime and could be jailed.
“Mohamad Ezam was convicted and slapped with a two-year jail sentence by Dr Mahathir’s Government for a violation of the OSA, even though he told the truth. Mohamad Ezam’s crime was revealing 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 ‘Top Secret’ classification of that file that would be the crux of the matter,” Salleh said.
Salleh said surely, Dr Mahathir, who held the prime minister’s post for 22 years understood about the ‘Top Secret’ classification, and there are certain files, papers or documents that did not even need a ‘RAHSIA’ stamp and were automatically protected under the OSA, with or without any ‘RAHSIA’ stamp.
“This is so fundamental, it boggles the mind that Dr Mahathir does not seem to understand about this and even more perplexing is the fact that the former prime minister sent Mohamad Ezam to jail for doing precisely what he (Dr Mahathir) says, Malaysians should do,” he said.