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Had RAM and its analysts been guilty of OSA offences for using official secrets from highway concessions to rate loans and bonds like New Pantai Expressway (NPE)?

Media Statement   
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Tuesday) : In the past four years, Rating Agency Malaysia Berhad (RAM) had published information which are only available from the New Pantai Expressway (NPE) concession contract to assign and reaffirm long term ratings of AA3 and A1 for New Pantai Expressway Sdn Bhd’s RM490 million Senior Bai’ Bithaman Ajil Notes (22002/2013) (“Senior Bonds”) and RM250 million Junior Bai’ Bithaman Ajil Notes (2003/2016), which are to be found in four RAM’s Project Finance Ratings  on New Pantai Expressway Sdn Bhd. dated:

  1.  October 2003;

  2.  December 2004;

  3.  November 2005; and

  4.  October 2006.

For instance, in its first report on “New Pantai Expressway Sdn Bhd – New Issue” in October 2003 in assigning a long-term rating of AA3 and A1 for its proposed Senior and Junior  Bonds, RAM referred to NPH’s  revised toll rate structure  under separate Supplemental Agreements where in return for additional works, NPE was compensated with an extension of the concession period by an additional 3.5 years to 11 March 2030 and a revision in toll rates from RM1.60 for cars for the entire original 30-year concession to a 33.5-year toll regime starting with RM1.60 but progressively increasing to RM2 and later RM2.30.

The pertinent question is whether RAM and its analysts had been guilty of OSA offences for using official secrets from highway concessions to rate loans and bonds like New Pantai Expressway (NPE).

The government cannot be unaware of these four RAM reports in the past four years and I am prepared to email these  copies to the Cabinet if the Malaysian Government had really been so ignorant, inept and incompetent.

I am not for a moment suggesting that RAM and its analysts should be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act but how can the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and the Cabinet reconcile the application of double standards in demanding that the four Opposition leaders, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Tian Chua of PKR, Ronnie Liu of DAP and Dr. Hatta Ramli of PAS should “pay the price” for disclosing the contents of Lebuhraya Damansasra Puchong (LDP) concession contract while closing their eyes to similar disclosures by RAM and other equity analysts on other highway concessions?

This is a question the Cabinet must grapple with tomorrow and the Prime Minister must  give the Malaysian public a satisfactory explanation after the Cabinet meeting  – why the selective and discriminatory interpretation and application of the OSA, depending on whether it applies to whistleblowers or profiteers.

The only honourable way out for Abdullah and the Cabinet is to take a policy decision to suspend all OSA investigations and proceedings until the repressive and draconian provisions in the OSA had been repealed.

Some 28 years ago, in October 1979, I had introduced a motion for a private member’s bill in Parliament on a Freedom of Information Act to ensure openness of government and to prevent the law on government information from protecting inefficiency, maladministration or even malpractices and corruption.

I had made two specific proposals, firstly to drastically cut back the “catch-all” Section 8 of the Official Secrets Act by providing that only specified categories of government information, e,g. matters involving national security or personal information, are protected by criminal penalties against disclosure; and secondly, enacting a new law compelling the government to make documents available to the public on demand except in the cases of specified categories of government information like properly-classified documents involving national security or personal information, with provisions for the Courts to decide whether such classification is justified or not.

It is time for  Abdullah to “walk the talk” of his reform pledge to lead an open, accountable, transparent, incorruptible and democratic administration  by repealing the Official Secrets Act to be replaced by a Freedom of Information Act – which is  also an acid test as to whether Malaysia can  end its malaise of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” by  adopting  a first-world mindset and culture under Abdullah’s premiership.  


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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