The Access to Information (ATI) Bill, which Malawi President Peter Mutharika promised to implement and expedite its enactment process, is not among the items on the agenda for the sitting of Parliament which started on Monday.
But Mutharika, who has been promising to expedite the process to enact the Access to Information Bill into law, says his government will table the Bill in subsequent sittings of Parliament along with bills that have also been left out.
Ironically, this is contrary to his earlier promise made when he took over the presidency that bill would be presented in the last sitting of Parliament which took place in September 2014.
Addressing Journalists in Lilongwe Tuesday, Mutharika reiterated that his government is aware that access to information is a major challenge for the media to ably play their important role.
“Priority has been given bills that were left out in previous sittings of parliament. Parliament cannot table all bills at one go. Other bills including the Access to Information and Mining Bill will be tabled during the next sitting of parliament.
“My government still committed to tabling to the access to information bill,” said Mutharika.
But reacting to this, Misa Malawi chairperson Thom Khanje doubted if the bill will breath to life.
“Despite all the promises by the President (Mutharika) and his government on ATI, history seems to be repeating itself on the bill.
“Since 2003 when the Media Institute of Southern Africa- Malawi Chapter (Misa-Malawi) started the campaign on ATI, all the three previous governments have played similar games and tricks on the bill,” said Khanje.
He therefore said to hear that the bill is not the agenda for Parliament is “quiet disappointing, frustrating and worrying”.
“Has the Peter Mutharika government now started playing tricks on ATI? Were the promises in the manifesto and maiden speeches just smokescreen?” queried Khanje.
According to him, delays in processing the bill at both the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Justice have the potential to put the integrity of the administration into question as they will be seen as people who can’t keep their promises.
“It is not too late to bring the Access to Information Bill into Parliament before the current sitting rises. President Mutharika needs to intervene on the matter to make sure that officials in the Ministry of Justice process the bill and make it ready for discussion in the National Assembly,” said Khanje.
He also said 20 years is too long a time for Malawians to continue being given excuses on the bill.
“With all the promises and lies we have heard in the past regarding the bill, it will be difficult for anybody to take any more promises on the bill.
“What the people and the media want now is presentation of the bill in Parliament and nothing else.
“Thumbs down to the government technocrats for letting down the President,” he stressed.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :