Parliamentary speech by MP for Aljunied GRC, Low Thia Khiang
Delivered in Committee of Supply on 10 March 2014]
The National Archives of Singapore is the official custodian of public records and arguably the keeper of our collective social memory. However, my understanding is that there seems to be a huge gap in the records and our collective memory, because the Cabinet Papers are not released to the National Archives.
Mdm, in many democratic countries with advanced social and economic development, they have what has been famously termed, the “thirty-year rule”, whereby yearly Cabinet Papers are released for public information and research, thirty years after they are created. In fact, the United Kingdom is now moving towards a twenty-year rule. In Israel, the thirty-year rule is subject to state security and foreign policy sensitivities. Mdm Chair, I am sure we are in a better position than Israel in these respects.
The principles behind the thirty-year rule, not only concern transparency and accountability to maintain public trust in the government, but also in encouraging historical investigation and writing, to foster a strong sense of national identity.
Singapore will be 50 years old next year. It is timely that the Government adopts the thirty-year rule, legislates a Declassification Act and releases the first tranche of Cabinet Papers for public access.