Monday, June 13, 2011

MPs Can Get Copy of IPP Contracts?

Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir was reported to have said that the highly-secret agreements between Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) and independent power producers (IPPs) can be released to parliamentarians, but cannot be disclosed to the public, as these are confidential matters.

He said "In Parliament, when a MP asks for anything, we have always been transparent." In fact, he even added that “MPs also have legal immunity which may allow them to bypass the non-disclosure clause in the agreement.”

Despite being a first term parliamentarian, I can say with certainty that the above statement by Mukhriz is complete and utter bunkum.

Members of Parliament (MP) are not privy to documents protected under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). To have access to these documents, the Cabinet will have to initiate a declassification process. Under the Act, anyone not unauthorised found in possession of these documents will be punishable with a mandatory 1 year, or up to 7 years in prison.

In fact, the then Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Lim Kit Siang had fought the OSA Amendment Bill 1986 tooth and nail, calling it “a critical assault on five crucial areas of Malaysian life: Parliamentary democracy, Freedom of the Press, Independence of the Judiciary, Responsible and Accountable Government, and Corruption-Free Malaysia”. MPs have no immunity over the possession (even if it is for 5 minutes) of the Government’s “confidential” documents!

The precedent has also been set that the tolled highway concession contracts as well as the Port Klang Free Zone contracts were made accessible to the MPs, they went through a lengthy declassification exercise by the Cabinet and Attorney-General.

What made Mukhriz’s statement even more ludicrous is its complete contradiction to the statement by the Energy, Water and Green Technology Minister, Datuk Peter Chin who had just last week announced that the Government has no power to release these documents to MPs and the public as they are agreements signed between “private entities”. Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Regardless of the above, I hope to be proven wrong and becoming a complete fool, if Mukhriz can on Monday 13th June next week when the 2nd parliamentary sitting of the year commences, to give each MP a copy of the IPP agreement, attached with an undertaking from the Attorney-General that MPs are not punishable under the OSA for having possession of these documents.

If not, then perhaps Mukhriz should explain in full why the Government chooses not to declassify these public interest documents, especially in the light of the unjust increase in tariffs to residential, commercial and industrial users, without any restructuring of the lobsided power purchase agreements allowing the IPPs to continue to make billions of ringgit in profits annually.
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