Ministry of Defence should not be a “black hole” of information to avoid parliamentary scrutiny using the Official Secrets Act (OSA)

Yesterday, my parliamentary question on the expenditures of AV-8 (8×8 armored vehicle) and Second Generation Patrol Vessel (SGPV) projects was turned down because it was classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

I am disappointed by the Speaker’s decision to gag this legitimate question. Why is the Ministry of Defence refusing to give answers about the financial implications of the two projects?

While I fully understood the sensitivity of defence capability development, the financial aspect of the two projects should still be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. Particularly since these projects are the largest scale defence development programme in Malaysia’s history. The rakyat deserve to know how their money is being spent on defense projects.

It is acceptable not to reveal the technical configurations and specifications as well as the tactical deployment of the assets, but it is an international norm to allow the public to know how much money was spent thus far and report the progress of the projects, to be accountable to the public. This is exactly what my question is asking for, and it was rejected.

I would like to draw a parallel with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which is the most expensive defence project in the history of mankind (total program cost more than 1 trillion dollars). The United States allowed the program to be audited by the U.S Government Accountability Office continuously. From time to time, observation, program progress and financial implications reports are released to inform the U.S congress and public about the development status. The principle of transparency was highly upheld in this case. (please refer to http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-429T)

Similarly, AV-8 and SGPV are the largest defence development programs Malaysia has ever committed to, each costing RM 7.5 billion and RM 9 billion respectively. The public needs to know how the money was spent, and was the principle of integrity being upheld in managing these funds?

There is no reason why this information should be classified.

If even a Member of Parliament is prevented from asking and getting such information, how can the public be informed of pertinent expenditure involving taxpayer’s funds?

I call upon the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat to look into this issue seriously, particularly to incorporate the revamp of categorisation of classified information as part of the parliamentary reform agenda.

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