Sarawak Report publishes AG's 1MDB report classified under Official Secrets Act

Men walk past a 1MDB billboard at the fund's flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur.
Men walk past a 1MDB billboard at the fund's flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - A news site known for its explosive reports on the troubled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has published what it claims is the full text of a report on the state investment fund which is classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

"We have re-typed the entire report in order to frustrate attempts to persecute whistleblowers, so please excuse any typing errors. The text is an exact replica," the Sarawak Report said on its website on Wednesday (July 13), along with a photo of allegedly the auditor-general's report on 1MDB and the content in Malay.

The Malaysiakini news site said it cannot reproduce the text due to legal constraints, as anyone guilty of unauthorised distribution or possession of classified documents faces a mandatory two-year jail term.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said last week he would check on the authenticity of the purported "leaked Auditor-General's documents"and verify with the AG on the documents.

Documents concerning national security, defence and international relations are automatically classified as official secrets under the Act, Kuaka Lumpur-based lawyer Syahredzan Johan wrote in an opinion piece for The Star.

The Act further empowers a Minister, Mentri Besar or Chief Minister, or any public official appointed by a Minister, Mentri Besar or Chief Minister, to classify any information and material as "Top Secret", "Secret", "Restricted" or "Confidential", which would then make that information or material an official secret under the Act, Mr Syahredzan explains.

"As such, the list of people who are able to classify information as official secret is large. This also means that there is a large amount of documents which are classified as official secret," he added.

The Act does not require the Minister, Mentri Besar or Chief Minister, or any public official appointed to justify why the document should be an official secret.

In other words, a person authorised under the Act to classify a document may do so for any document or information, regardless of whether there is a need or justification for the classification. The information need not relate to national security or defence.

"It also means that the OSA has been used to cover up or hide negligence, mismanagement, wrongdoings or even offences within governments," Mr Syahredzan points out.

Critics have questioned the decision to classify the AG report as official secret, as 1MDB - a subject of money laundering and embezzlement probes in at least half a dozen countries - is a state-owned company and is not related to national security or defence.

The Sarawak Report, run by London-based editor Clare Rewcastle Brown, has been banned in Malaysia.