Side Views

Secrecy only promotes suspicion ― Lim Mun Fah

AUG 27 ― There is no smoke without fire. Many controversies are triggered when a party tries to conceal something from the public, believing that revealing it to the public would lead to unnecessary trouble that jeopardises its interests and even affect social peace and stability. And thus, the party chooses to operate within a “small circle”.

However, once the secret is exposed to the public, it could backfire and lead to an outbreak of public grievance. When the situation turns bad, it will then be difficult to put out the fire, but easy to worsen the situation.

For example, if the Lynas rare earth plant investment plan was openly discussed since the early stage, and a decision made only after a full study by the Parliament, media, related professional organisations and members of the public ― instead of being exposed only when the construction was nearly completed ― it might not touch off the heated controversy and trigger the indignant Green Rally.

If they did not try to cover up and hide the approval letter for the Kuantan Chinese independent school and let the public discuss while looking for sound solutions for the shortcomings instead of shouting at each other, the controversy could be avoided and mutual trust wouldn’t be harmed.

Similarly, if the Pengerang Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project was transparently handled since the early stage by inviting villages to dialogues, discussions and negotiations before land acquisition and other work are started, the situation might not be the same as today’s in which officials and members of the public are irreconcilably confronting.

In a good society, the implementation of any policies or development plans must be reasonably arranged, systematically planned and transparently discussed.

Yet did the Lynas rare earth refinery plant, the approval of a Chinese independent school in Kuantan and the Pengerang RAPID project go through the basic procedures of assessment and feedback collection?

Take the Pengerang RAPID project as an example, development is good but what risks would the project bring? What price would the villagers have to pay and what would they get as a return? Is the land acquisition procedure reasonable? Does it involve any fraudulent practices? How would the affected residential areas, schools, temples and graveyards be relocated?

All these problems should have been settled long time ago, instead of being addressed only after the established fact is made, leaving the people nothing much to do but just negatively oppose to it.

We must admit that it is now a clamorous era, as well as an era of rights consciousness. Not only are the media in the pursuit of a greater freedom of the press, the people are also fighting for a greater right to know.

The approach of making decisions behind closed doors in the past is now totally unworkable. The more you try to hide, the more people are dissatisfied.

The more you try to impose by force, the more people will resist it.

It has become that public opinion must not be defied. ―

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.


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