CIJ: Make public the 1MDB settlement agreement!

THE Government should make public all details in the agreement reached in regards to the 1MDB issue as the matter concerns taxpayers’ funds.

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said the Government’s excuse citing “confidentiality clauses” was unacceptable as it would undermine accountability and transparency.

“Why would the Government enter such an agreement if it had such stringent confidentiality clauses to prevent disclosure?

“Surely the Government would have found such things would disallow public scrutiny on such important issue, given the misappropriation level surrounding 1MDB.

“Plus, legitimate requirements of confidentiality would typically extend to non-disclosure of information crucial to negotiations regarding settlement terms and should reasonably be limited to the duration of the negotiation period,” said its executive director Wathshlah G Naidu, in a statement.

Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan told the Dewan Rakyat that the Government could not disclose details on what transpired in negotiations involving the State, 1MDB and Goldman Sachs citing “confidentiality clauses”.

In October, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay US$1.4 bil to the Malaysian Government, in a settlement involving the massive corruption scandal plaguing 1MDB.

 Public interest overrides secrecy clauses

Unimpressed by Takiyuddin’s statement, Wathshlah said the Government cannot keep citing secrecy issues to curtail freedom of expression and right to information by the public, especially involving a case of such proportion.

“We are aware of the importance of protecting sensitive information from being arbitrarily revealed and subjected to abuse on issues pertaining to national security, defence and public order.

“However, the State must ensure that blanket assumptions about confidentiality do not become the norm and used as an easy way out to avoid sharing information on issues of public interest,” she said.

Taking the PAS leader to task, Wathshlah said Takiyuddin failed to justify on why the 1MDB settlement issue should be kept confidential, failing the harm test principles.

“Countries such as the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have made significant progress in terms of right to information, where larger public interest overrides any exemptions related to ‘commercial confidence’ and ‘trade secrets’,” she said. – Nov 22, 2020.

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