DAP-led Penang government hides behind FOI

 |Apr 14, 2017

The DAP-led Penang government is not as transparent as it claims to be, after all, said the state Gerakan youth today.

Penang Gerakan youth chief Jason Loo Jieh Sheng indeed charged the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s government of hiding behind the state Freedom of Information (FOI) Enactment 2010.

“Many youngsters believe that Penang is the most transparent state in Malaysia.

“But what we are facing in FOI showed that Lim Guan Eng’s administration is trying their level best to cover up everything, i.e. confuse the public with different figures and do not declassify all documents by giving a different excuse.

“The chief minister knows that by pushing the blame to the developers, i.e. the developers do not consent to the disclosure, then he and his administration are safe as they do not have to declassify any documents by using that excuse.

“The DAP-led Penang government is hiding behind the FOI,” Jason Loo said in a statement.

He was commenting on the state rejection of his applications for access to three reclamation projects’ agreements.

Jason Loo on March 14 this year has applied for access to contractual documents of STP 1 and 2, add Gurney Wharf reclamation projects via the FOI due to discrepancies in the official figures of the projects.

But his applications were rejected by the state secretary office with three separate letters dated April 4, 2017.

The state government has informed Jason Loo that the agreements of STP 1 and 2 reclamation projects were rejected due to the “confidentiality clause”.

The agreement of Gurney Wharf reclamation project was rejected because it was a supplemental agreement to the STP agreement and must be read together with the main agreement.

“The conclusion is, all my three applications were rejected,” said Jason Loo, who will appeal under Section 9 of the FOI against the state decision.

“I don’t know whether the FOI Appeal Board is constituted or not, but as a young lawyer, I am going to do my part of filing the very first appeal in the history of Penang FOI access.”

Jason Loo said when the DAP-led state administration attempted to pass the FOI at the state assembly in 2010, it promoted the CAT – competency, accountability and transparency – concept, explaining about open government and open data concepts.

He said Section 11 (2) and the whole enactment were drafted and passed by the state government but today what it did was against the spirit of FOI.

He said the DAP government rejected his applications when Section 11 (2) of the FOI clearly stated that the state authority shall have the power to disclose or declassify the agreements if the public interest for its disclosure outweighs the risk of it.

“Where is the open government concept in Penang?” he asked.

Jason Loo, who has filed more than 10 applications via FOI, said the DAP-led state administration had imposed various obstacles to block declassification of documents.

Among the obstacles are the requirement on applicants to sign statutory declarations to not to reveal the information to the public, which he described as a form of “threat” to the applicants.

The state also frequently cites the lack of consent from developers due to the confidentiality clause to deny access.

Another hurdle is that when the main agreement cannot be declassified, the supplemental agreement also cannot be disclosed as the agreements must be read together.

Jason Loo called on Penangites who supported the open government concept and open data concept to work together with Penang Gerakan youth to obtain documents via the FOI access.

“I will continue to fight to rectify the problems in the enactment and procedures which public interests are concerned.”