Malaysia bans smart devices at Cabinet, exco meetings

SEREMBAN • Malaysia is banning all mobile phones and other digital devices from being taken into , post- and state executive council meetings where policy matters and official secrets are being discussed.

As part of an effort to prevent leaks, the prohibition also covers watches, pens, cameras, voice and video recorders, and tablets, according to a wide-ranging government directive that was first issued in January.

Such gadgets are also barred at meetings discussing issues such as national security, the federal budget, defence and international relations, as well as at high-level meetings at ministries, government departments and agencies.

Executive council meetings are those involving Cabinet ministers of Malaysia’s state governments.

National Security director-general Sanusi Sidek said these devices are also banned at discussions on government tenders and enforcement activities, and at all meetings related to the running of the government.

“This has become necessary as the uncontrolled use of such devices in government agencies can have negative implications and compromise security.

“It can also violate provisions in the Official Secrets Act 1972,” he said in his directive, a copy of which The Star daily has obtained.

In April, the Malaysian Parliament was told that restricted zones that prohibit mobile phones or other communication devices capable of recording information have been created in ministries and government departments to prevent the leak of confidential government information.

The Prime Minister’s Department, in a written reply to a question from an MP, then stated these zones would apply to any important meeting categorised as “critical and high-risk”.

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The directive was issued after an internal memo pertaining to court matters from the Attorney-General’s Chambers was leaked.

Datuk Sanusi said the ban is necessary as the leak of government secrets through mobile phones has reached worrying levels.

“Department heads will have to decide on the restricted zones where the use of mobile phones and other communication equipment will be barred.

“The failure to comply can lead to the risk of official secrets being leaked and this can affect the government’s image as well as national security,” he said in the memo.

“Action must be taken against any member who fails to comply with the directive. And if there is any violation of provisions in the Official Secrets Act, the chairman will have to lodge a police report and notify our department in writing,” Mr Sanusi added in his directive.

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