G25: Inquiry reports should be publicly accessible, not put in cold storage

Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
A general view of Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur March 29, 2018. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — Pro-moderation group G25 has called for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to make inquiry reports accessible to the public.

In a statement today, the group said that the government has kept the reports submitted by several independent committees of inquiry and special committees in cold storage.

“Two of our members were involved in serving on such committees and they are highly frustrated that the reports of their respective committees, which have been submitted to the respective ministries or Cabinet months ago, are still in cold storage. 

“In most democracies, such reports would be tabled in Parliament for scrutiny and debate at the parliamentary select committee level,” the statement read, adding that ministry officials would be called to explain whether they agree with the findings and recommendations in the report.

“In both reports, the committees made recommendations for improvements at the policy making level and for ministerial responsibility to give clear directions and sufficient resources to the operational and enforcement staff.”

The report cited by the group was the Report of the Independent Committee on the October 2016 Fire Tragedy at the Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Baru, which was submitted to the Health Ministry last June.

Another was the report by an independent committee formed last October on the management of foreign workers, following criticisms from industry, civil society and other stakeholders on the shortcomings in the policies and procedures pertaining to the engaging of foreign workers.

“Both reports are not related to national security and therefore they should not be classified under the Official Secrets Act and hidden from the public.

“The fire tragedy that led to the death of 6 patients and injuries to nurses caused public alarm. It led to speculations about the failure on the part of the hospital management to prevent or minimise risks of fire hazards at the hospital and the fear that other hospitals may also be at risk. 

“The criticisms portray a foreign worker management system that is in disarray and dysfunctional. The public has also been speculating on the dual authority between two ministries on the inflow of foreign workers,” the statement read.

The group had also called for the government to disclose the reports of the Council of Eminent Persons Institutional Reforms Committee and the Committee established by the Rulers Council on the Administration of Islam in the Federal Territory. 

It said that the committees were set up by PH to gather the views of civil society organisations to provide inputs into the reform agenda, where G25 was one of them called to present.

“We would like to know how much of our suggestions have been accepted by these high level committees. These reports should also be tabled and discussed in parliament to make the public aware about the issues confronting the country. 

“If the public can be trusted to vote in elections, there is no reason to keep the people out of the reports dealing with their future.

“We believe that by showing a willingness to be transparent and open to scrutiny, as the principle of good governance demands, the government can set the country’s democracy on a high level and create confidence among the public that whatever changes that may happen in political power, the country will be safe and continue to progress because of the institutional strength under the parliamentary system of checks and balances to deal with any crisis that may surface in the future,” the statement read.

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