Posted: 17 Aug 2010 09:30 AM PDT
Below is the article featured in the Sun:
SHAH ALAM (Aug 12, 2010): The right to information in concession agreements signed between the Selangor government and companies was one of the issues deliberated by several organizations and the state select committee at the first discussion today on the Freedom of Information enactment.
"Currently the right to information in the enactment only covers government departments and we want to widen this to include local authorities, state agencies, government-linked companies, federal-linked departments and companies that have state-related concessions such as Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas)," said committee member and Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh, who is also a select committee member, said this was an important area for the state government to explore to ensure that concession agreements benefit the people.
"There must not be confidentiality clauses included in the agreements signed with these companies to ensure the public have the right to information on matters that affect them," she said.
However, this will depend a lot on the cooperation from federal authorities and the willingness of concessionaires to divulge information.
In-depth studies need to be done on this matter, and on the type of information that should be made accessible, as companies involved may be reluctant to disclose their trade information.
Bar Council Human Rights committee chairman Andrew Khoo said cutting edge legislation cannot shy away from this.
"Information which is of public interest like toll concessions is classified as official secret, even though the contents are one-sided and suspect, but the public do not have access to them.
"A lot of information that does not fall under the category of official secrets is labelled as such, and after 50 years one cannot tell why these are a secret. We must ask why," he said.
He also said it should be made clear that the right to information should include information before a decision on a matter is made, because the public had a right to know about something that affects then before a final decision is made on it.
Today's session, which included representatives from the Centre for Independent Journalism, National Union of Journalists and the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, was the first of a series of joint discussions to be held with various organisations.
Select committee chairman and Hulu Klang assemblyman Saari Sugib said forums, workshops and academic discussions will be held with academicians, lawyers, retired judges and government servants and other experts in the field before the legislative assembly sits early next year. -- theSun
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