In 1766, Sweden became the first country to pass a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA).  This month, the state of Selangor in Malaysia became the most recent jurisdiction to do so.  Selangor’s FOI law was enacted in spite of initial objections that it might be prohibited by the Malay federal government’s Official Secrets Act.

Theiva Amarthalingam

Theiva Amarthalingam of CAP

ELAW partner Theivanai Amarthalingam at the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) confirmed passage of the new law. She wrote:

“…the State of Selangor in Malaysia is the first state in the country to have the Freedom of Information Act in place. The Act was passed for the disclosure of information pertaining to State documents and where Federal concerns are involved and classified under the Official Secrets Act, that cannot be revealed.”

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) reports:  “This Enactment is a historic step toward transparency in governance and government accountability…” The CIJ also criticizes the law as lacking transparency in the appointment of the State Information Board and not stipulating that fees be kept low.

Theiva noted:  “the point is, at least one State Government is taking the step in the right direction and in the coming months, [I] am sure once the Act is put to the test, the flaws will be seen. And hopefully amended.”

Theiva also pointed out that the Malaysian state of Penang is currently undergoing a public hearing process for their proposed Freedom of Information Act.  Perhaps the new law in Selangor will act as a catalyst and we’ll see access to information laws such as this one spread throughout Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

Glenn Gillis
Information Technology Manager