Will the rakyat go mad if they read the CEP report? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, March 30, 2019
CEP , Top Secret???
Malaysiakini : “It is very important for the people to realise that
while this government must be more transparent, more accountable, it
does not mean that every step of the way must be (told about)."- Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram
COMMENT | Zaid Ibrahim, the maverick of Malaysian politics, thinks the government is mad for classifying the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) report as an official secret.
CEP member KS Jomo, in arguing
that for the contents of the report to remain classified, said, "There
are very delicate things. Information can be abused. It's very important
because, for example, many things that I talked about (in the report)
there are details which obviously would affect certain businesses and we
have to be very careful about them (the information). So likewise
things that affect other countries.
We have to be very careful about
So not only are domestic national interests threatened by
the declassification but so will common interests with foreign
countries. The prime minister has implied that the findings of the CEP
were for his eyes only as if the CEP was some sort of kitchen cabinet.
Jomo, meanwhile, said the information should be shared with the relevant
ministries. All this for a report which is supposed to save Malaysia.
In a piece arguing for the declassification of the CEP report, I wrote:
“If the prime minister wanted unvarnished information, he should have
just appointed advisers in non-official capacities to give him input
during his decision-making process. This way, it is his business and his
business alone, and we would judge his decisions were based on the
efficacy of his policies.”
the scraps of information we get, the CEP report not only contains
information about businesses operating in Malaysia but also in foreign
countries - which would be damning if it ever got out. The CEP also
formed a five-member Committee on Institutional Reforms (IRC) because it
said: “[...] economic reforms on their own could not bring the desired
change unless accompanied by institutional reforms”. The committee would
report to them and then they would report to the PM.
the IRC sent their final report to the CEP and briefed the prime
minister. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keon,
responding to a question in Parliament by Maria Chin Abdullah
(Harapan-Petaling Jaya) as to when the report would be available to
members of parliament and the public, said, “The decision to make this
report known to the public will be made after the report is discussed in
detail by the cabinet in the near future.”
The recommendation by
the IRC has yet to be made public. I suppose the government could redact
certain information from the report for national security reasons but
one wonders what exactly constitutes national security when it comes to
reforming institutions of the government?
Maybe the current
government realises that the reforms they promised would disrupt the
ecosystem of corporate and political power in this country? Maybe the
government understands that the reforms promised would go against the
racial and religious power structures that enabled a system of privilege
for a chosen few? Maybe the complicity of foreign governments and
corporate entities enabled a scandal like 1MDB and the house of cards
would come crashing down if the system was disrupted? Who knows?
Or maybe not. Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali (above, far right) claimed
that the recommendations of the CEP were not a matter of national
security. "Those are the recommendations, it doesn't involve national
security but is purely recommendations by the CEP to the prime minister
on how to move forward with all these challenges."
So if the
economic minister thinks the report is not a matter of security, then
what justifications are there for it to remain classified? In fact
chucking this report under the OSA just furthers the narrative that the
government has something to hide. Some people think that the system is
broken and in need of reform. They believe that what the report contains
is the road map for such reforms. Indeed, this was the impression that
some members of the CEP gave.
The Pakatan Harapan government
supposedly ran on a reform ticket. Zaid Ibrahim, as usual, is right to
point to the mendacity of the government in making the report an
official secret. While some Harapan political operatives are inquiring
as to when this report could be made public, the general impression is
that MPs are not clamouring for this report to be made public.
important question is why isn’t the opposition interested in finding
out the recommendations of the report? Of course, what we are dealing
with here are systemic problems that did not happen overnight. Najib
Abdul Razak was the logical conclusion of decades of governmental
malfeasance and some of the very people who lead the government now are
in charge of reforming it.
the prime minister says that the report is for his eyes only and that
the government really does not need to be accountable to the people -
which most often is what use of OSA means - this is business as usual
which the previous opposition claimed was destroying this country.
does Anwar Ibrahim, the prime minister-in-waiting, think of this? Does
he believe that the report should be made public or does he believe that
this report is for the prime minister's eyes only? More importantly,
did the relevant ministries get the low down on the report as suggested
by Jomo or was the report just filed away under "things to do when we
can get to it" folder?
And this is the maddening part of this
whole fiasco. Nobody in the government is claiming that the government
took the recommendations of the CEP and are putting it in action. Nobody
in the government is claiming that the recommendations are a useful
guide to chart the course of the reform agenda. All everyone is doing is
talking about how the system needs to change but they are more involved
in petty political intrigue and blaming everything on the Najib regime.
you know what? This strategy probably is working. If people think that
getting Najib out was the best thing this government did, then the CEP
report really amounts to a hill of beans and not worth even protecting
as a national secret.
Writer's note - CEP chairperson Daim Zainuddin has since said he supports the idea of releasing the report to the general public. Jomo, too, now agreed that the report should be made public.