Saturday, February 03, 2007

Is it really an Official Secret if even I knew about it?

I was just wondering about the case of our Right Honourable Works Minister, Samy Vellu claiming that the highway concessionaire agreements were under the purvue of the Official Secrets Act. He seems quite angry that members of the opposition have leaked out the contents of the document to show their lopsidedness.

The main issue is that of guaranteed profits. I'd always thought that this was common knowledge. Everyone seemed to know about it. The toll concessionaires were all guaranteed profits for many years. If they could show that they were losing money, the government would have to recompensate their losses. I think that the logic behind it was that these companies would not have taken up the project otherwise as they felt that it was a loss making venture. However, I do agree that this does not make *any* business sense. Now, I'm wondering if Joe Public knows about another little tidbit that I know of these toll concessionaires. When taken together, the other tidbit is actually more damning than the 'guaranteed profits' clause on it's own.

So, I wonder if something can really be considered an Official Secret when even I knew about it. Of course, I never knew for certain, seeing that we Malaysians loved our rumours and gossips. However, if there's one thing that I've learnt about rumours and gossips in our capital, it's that it's usually just a little exaggerated truth. There just isn't any such thing as a "secret" in a society like ours.

And I also wonder how such a document can be considered under the OSA. Yes, it's a business contract between two entities, the government and a company. However, I don't think that any other business contracts are considered under the OSA. The OSA is generally applied only to secrets that have a high threat to national security. I don't see how these contracts have *any* credible threat to national security. It's more likely that our Right Honourable Works Minister is feeling a little more exposed than he is used to and is flexing his muscle (remember the Emperor).

Now, I'm really curious to find out the details of the contract for the SMART tunnel. I wonder if it's stated anywhere in the contract that the tunnel *does not* need to work as advertised. Heck, maybe the whole "channel the river waters away" thing was just an excuse to build another tolled road in our city. Somehow, disguising a toll collecting tool as a gutter seems to fit quite nicely and sucking out all the "water" from the people is an apt reference as well.

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