Release of govt papers: Guide is good governance

Release of govt papers: Guide is good governance
Mr Lawrence Wong noted that government records are deemed part of the public archives after 25 years. But classified papers relating to national defence, foreign relations and internal security, as well as documents which may be bound by confidentiality obligations, are excluded.

BUDGET DEBATE

SINGAPORE should not release government records to encourage transparency for transparency's sake.

Instead, the goal of releasing such information should be to encourage good governance, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong said. This is why only some Cabinet papers, such as those that do not touch on internal security, will be declassified.

He was responding to Workers' Party MP Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC), who called for the first tranche of Cabinet papers to be made available to the public.

Noting that countries such as Israel and United Kingdom have laws mandating the release of government papers after 30 years, Mr Low said it would be timely for such a law here.

After almost 50 years of independence, there must be some Cabinet papers that are no longer considered sensitive, he said. Releasing them can also encourage historical investigation and writing, which will foster a stronger sense of national identity.

Mr Wong noted that government records are deemed part of the public archives after 25 years. But classified papers relating to national defence, foreign relations and internal security, as well as documents which may be bound by confidentiality obligations, are excluded.

He said some countries had "gone somewhat overboard" with freedom of information laws, and open access had not always led to better governance. In some cases, it had instead led to more opaqueness and avoidance of records.

"Policy papers or Cabinet papers which are written which may not have full information and full details because the civil servants writing them know that these will be made available," he said.

yuenc@sph.com.sg


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