|Update Selangor govt to table freedom of information bill|
|Politics & Government 2009|
|Written by Chua Sue-Ann|
|Tuesday, 19 May 2009 16:15|
Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim today said access to information was necessary to promote accountability and good governance as well as empower citizens to make sound decisions on public issues.
"The culture of classifying every document as secret is seen as "excessive" (melampau) because not all documents endanger national security," Abdul Khalid told reporters here yesterday after launching the Selangor government's web television channel and newspaper.
A FOI draft bill is expected to be tabled during the assembly's year-end sitting, in October or November, and would come into force by 2010 if passed, said Selangor state executive council member Elizabeth Wong.
Wong also said if the enactment came to be, a State Information Commission answerable to the assembly would be established, while information officers would be placed in each public body to facilitate information requests and management.
"Freedom of information (enactments) are very common. It is the norm, not the exception (although) we have not come to the point where it is federal law," Wong said.
Wong, who chairs the state government's FOI committee, added that the Selangor government hoped the federal government would eventually follow suit with the FOI legislation.
When asked, Wong maintained that there needed to be a FOI legislation, which was more permanent compared with policies, which could be "overturned overnight".
"The government is holding information on the public's behalf but is not mandated to hide information from the public," she said.
Wong also said classified documents must be specific and limited.
Also speaking at a forum today, H R Dipendra of the Bar Council warned the OSA "may undermine" and conflict with the FOI enactment.
"FOI does not seek to overturn OSA, but what FOI will do is to create a framework for the public to seek information.
"The state government has to come up with mechanisms to overcome the OSA and they need to do this carefully," Dipendra said.
Met later, Dipendra said the declassification of documents was no easy task as some documents required the federal government's approval and was a "tedious" process.
Meanwhile, Wong later told reporters, "I am convinced that once this enactment is passed, it is a matter of getting used to a different system of working, of being transparent and accountable."
Abdul Khalid today launched the state government's web television channel SelangorTV and its free newspaper Selangorkini, which began publication a year ago.
When asked, Abdul Khalid said Selangorkini would not merely serve as the Pakatan Rakyat government's mouthpiece because readers, who were well-educated, would not read the paper if they sensed bias reporting.