For all the fight corruption rhetoric that Pak Lah has been saying but little done, he could have done it and won admiration from people by repealing the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and enacting the Right to Information Act (RTI) or Freedom of Information. No amount of fighting corruption can be successful when there is an OSA to protect files and documents from the glare of public scrutiny.
With a Right to Information, anyone, not just journalist but any man on the street, can go into a government office and ask to see the account books of how government and local authotirities are spending our hard earned taxes. It is a formidable tool of empowerment for the rakyat, to participate in democracy and help ensure good governance and citizenship.
When things don't tally, anyone can bring the authorities to court to explain the discrepancies. That is the power of the right to information. You don't need to have a centralised body, more bureaucracy and more (corruptable) officers to investigate corruption. The public can do it, with an efficient police force and a clean justice system.
The Selangor MB has got it right। In the first week of his new administration, he said that he will find ways to block the OSA and implement a Right to Information Act. This is good business, good politics and good governance. Indeed, such a refreshing departure from the old BN ways of doing everything behind close doors.
India enacted the RTI in 2005 and it has been used by its citizens to safeguard what is due to them. In one case, they exposed a scam involving food grain officers who had siphoned 87% of wheat and rice meant for the poor. By demanding to see the account books, ordinary peasants brought the culprits to court by invoking the RTI.
Read how this man, empowered common people to use the RTI to safeguard their rights. He won the Magsaysay Award for this silent revolution taking place in India.
07 August 2006 - An IIT graduate and a former bureaucrat with the Indian Revenue Service, Arvind Kejriwal has created a silent social revolution in the Right To Information (RTI) movement in the country through his organization, 'Parivartan'. Propelling common people to invoke the Act, he streamlined the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Delhi where information obtained under the RTI revealed that the shopkeepers and food grain officers siphoned off 87 percent of wheat and 94 percent of rice meant for the poor. He used Gandhiji's favourite weapon of Satyagraha in cases where the government departments hesitated to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) or where they refused to adopt transparency, as required by the RTI Act. He has been guiding hundreds of faceless citizens to use the RTI for their right to have proper public utility services, since they are the taxpayers to whom the local and state governments are duty-bound to provide the information.
His passion and dedication to this movement in India have been aptly recognized with this year's Ramon Magsaysay award for Emergent Leadership, recently bestowed upon him. In an exclusive interview to India Together, Kejriwal gives an insight into the RTI movement in India, and worries that this formidable tool of empowerment might slip out of the hands of citizens if amendments proposed by Manmohan Singh's government are enacted. Vinita Deshmukh spoke with him.....