News

WAO on NGO's Right to Information

Posted on 16 May 2011
 

WOMEN’S Aid Organisation (WAO) received a letter from the police on March 11 in response to its annual request for the 2010 statistics on Violence against Women (VAW) from the Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse Division. The statistics include incidences of domestic violence, rape, incest, domestic worker abuse and child abuse. The police to our surprise regretfully informed us that they were unable to provide us with these statistics with the reason that these figures are classified as confidential documents.

 

WAO has been receiving this information without impediment for many years and as such felt that this arbitrary decision was a mere oversight or mistake on the part of the police. We thus wrote a second letter on April 1, appealing the police decision to deny us the statistics. In the letter we also outlined the reasons for which we required the statistics.

 

The press and women’s groups were alerted. When the Inspector-General of Police, Ismail Omar, was questioned by the press he said that he had no inkling of WAO’s request for access to the 2010 Crime/ VAW Statistics prepared by Bukit Aman’s Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse Division. "I haven’t seen the application. I have no idea what it’s about," he said.

 

On April 28, WAO received the statistics from Bukit Aman with a letter informing us that the statistics were for reference and research purposes only and could not be distributed to a third party.

 

The reasons why WAO requests for these statistics are to understand the incidences and trends of VAW. As a service provider that has been around for over 28 years it assists us in tailoring our crisis intervention services for women in Malaysia. It also helps shape our public education programmes. Lastly, it helps us lobby for allocation of resources not just for NGOs but also for the Welfare Department and the police.

 

WAO is unhappy and dissatisfied with the restrictive use of this information. The police have not given any substantiated reasons as to the restrictive use and the need to hide such information. We maintain the position that freedom and access of information is central to a democratic process and that these statistics and all statistics of public interest should be made available in the public domain without any hindrance by the authorities. Access to such information is not only vital to WAO and civil society but it should be recognised that we have a right to have access to such information.

 

 

Valerie Mohan

Programme Officer

Women’s Aid Organisation

 


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