Rights groups today questioned the government’s need for secrecy clauses in the US$3.9 billion (RM16 billion) settlement with Goldman Sachs Group Inc (Goldman) over the 1MDB scandal.
Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Muhammad Mohan said the Goldman settlement was a matter of public interest and ought to be vetted by a parliamentary committee.
De facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan had said the specifics in the deal with Goldman could not be revealed to avoid any legal action against the government due to a non-disclosure clause.
“Legislators on both sides of the divide ought to be given access to the information in the name of transparency. This simply does not warrant to be called a state secret,” Muhammad told FMT.
Wathshlah Naidu of the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said secrecy clauses are important for national security, defence and public order, but should not be used as an “easy way” to prevent the public from accessing matters of public interest.
She said the government must tell why revealing details of the agreement would be harmful and the specific legal ramifications by doing so.
“Putrajaya should push for a Right to Information law, so that secrecy clauses can be overridden in the name of public interest,” Wathshlah said, adding that similar laws have been enacted in the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Recently, Subang MP Wong Chen called for the auditor-general to intervene and probe the Goldman deal, and to allow a bipartisan committee of 10 MPs to study the agreement, saying Malaysians were demanding justice and “complete restitution” of the stolen money.
He said if the government still feels that these 10 MPs can’t view the agreement in full, then the auditor-general should give his view over the matter. He said hiding the facts about the settlement would be causing a “second injury” to Malaysians.
In July, Goldman agreed to a settlement with Malaysia that included a payment of US$2.5 billion and an “unusual” provision that the bank would guarantee that Malaysia would recoup an additional US$1.4 billion from 1MDB assets seized around the world. As part of the deal, Malaysia dropped the criminal charges against the bank.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had called for Putrajaya to withdraw its agreement to accept the US$2.5 billion, saying the money to be paid to the government was “nothing compared to what is due to Malaysia”. – FMT