The Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali allowed a rare but very insightful though frightening peep into his mind in his interview with Sin Chew Daily today.
Apandi’s interview deserve fuller dissection and analysis, but for the immediate moment, what warrants immediate response is the revelation that the Attorney-General is mulling laws to increase the punishment of those who leak state secrets and journalists who report, and that the Attorney-General’s Chambers is proposing to amend the Official Secrets Act 1972 to include life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the rotan as punishments.
Apandi said: “In some countries, the leaking of official secrets is a serious offence, like in China where it carries the death sentence.”
Apandi insisted that should journalists protect or refuse to reveal the sources by invoking journalistic ethics, they will be considered collaborating with a potential saboteur.
“We may charge journalists who refuse to reveal their sources.
“I am not joking. If I have 90 percent of evidence, I will charge the journalist, editor, assistant editor and editor-in-chief. I am serious, no kidding. We have too many leakage of secrets in Malaysia.
“The right to know is not granted by the constitution.”
This must be the first time the Attorney-General of Malaysia expressed admiration and envy for the laws and system in China, as it had never been done by his predecdessors.
I have often been accused of being a “communist”, when I never expressed or entertained such a notion as advanced by Apandi. Will the UMNO chauvinists and extremists now accuse Apandi as a “communist”? Apandi is of course no “communist”.
But what immediately came to mind when I read Apandi’s justification for draconian amendments to the Official Secrets Act quoting the Chinese “death sentence” for leaks of official secrets is whether a person like the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak would have survived as China’s top leader with two mega scandals swirling around him causing the country to be named No. 3 in world’s “worst corruption scandals in 2015” and the subject of investigation by seven different countries, including by US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) whether he is a kleptocrat?
Would Apandi dare to say that a top leader with Najib’s twin mega scandals, particularly the mysterious RM2.6 billion in his personal banking account – whether as a donation or otherwise, as this issue has become increasingly murkier with conflicting versions as to its real nature – would have survived the Chinese communist system to remain in the top leadership hierarchy?
If Apandi’s retrogressive proposals make to the statute books, it will ensure that in less than a decade, Malaysia will be overtaken by China in the annual Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in both ranking and score, and Malaysia can forget about the target under Najib’s National Transformation Programme for Malaysia to be in the top 30 countries in the TI CPI by 2020.
The trend in the TI CPI ranking and score in the 21-year series of TI CPI from 1995-2015 shows there is already no reason or ground for anyone to believe that the target of Malaysia being ranked in the top 30 of TI CPI in 2020 is a realistic or achievable one.
But Apandi’s proposal will ensure, as surely as the sun rises from the east, that within a decade, Malaysia will be overtaken by China in both TI CPI ranking and score.
If the first TI CPI in 1995, Malaysia was ranked No. 23 out of 41 countries with a score of 5.28 out of 10, while China was ranked as the second last in the list (No. 40) with CPI score of 2.16 out of 10 (i.e. hovering in the lowest 90 percentile of the CPI score).
However, in the last 21 years, while Malaysia achieved the dubious distinction as one of the few countries which had been downgraded both in TI CPI ranking and score (Rank No. 54, Score 50/100 in TI CPI 2015), China had made quantum leaps of improvement in the fight against corruption to gain the TI CPI rank of No. 83 and score of 37/100 for TI CPI 2015.
The question that must be addressed immediately is whether the AG’s Chambers have the sanction of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to consider amending the Official Secrets Act to increase penalties to include life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the rotan as well as to widen its ambit so as to be able punish journalists and editors.
Let the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in his Chinese New Year Open House visits tomorrow, declare without equivocation whether Apandi had his authority and sanction to make the OSA even more draconian and repressive, which will cast a long shadow on press freedom and democratic liberties in Malaysia.