Media Statement by Lau Weng San in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 16th April 2009:
FOI bill, OSA and Council minutes of meetings Ė letís study Scandinavian standards
I support the move to make local council sub-committee meeting minutes be made available to the public to promote transparency. Under the current legal framework, there will be legal implications if these documents are used/published openly without first being declassified. There will be no legal implications to my knowledge if these documents be published after declassified.
Currently, elected representatives are allowed to participate the meeting without voting rights. Participation to any meeting of this kind to outsiders, including members of the media, is only done by invitation.
The state government is in the process of enacting an Enactment named Freedom of Information (FOI) Enactment which could govern that all minutes of meetings of local council's committee meetings be published openly to promote transparency and to ensure the public that decisions made at these meetings are fair and follows proper procedure.
There should be no legal implications if observers are invited to attend these meetings officially. As for opening the meeting to outsiders, one should bear in mind that a lot of discussions on issues and problems are premature in nature, that the council and the councillors need more time to deliberate on the matters.
Therefore, before any decision been made, it could create unnecessary confusions and misunderstandings among the public if the meetings were to be conducted openly especially for meetings when the council has not made any decision or the council want to refer the matter to the higher authority.
I think it will be good for all of us to explore how Scandinavians practice these principles of openness in their countries.
The FOI enactment is one of the many steps we can take, not only to fulfill our electoral pledges but to promote greater transparency and become the role model not only to other Pakatan-ruled state governments but also to the Federal government.
Having an FOI enactment is not the only way towards greater transparency but education to the general public including media players is equally important as all stakeholders must be taught and educated on the meaning of greater transparency.
Matters related to national security and terrorism should also be deliberated. Free flow of information should also mean more openness in media reports to both ruling and opposition parties.
* Lau Weng San, Selangor DAP Secretary & ADUN for Kampung Tunku