Leader of opposition in Parliament, Lazarous Chakwera and the Media, Information and Communications Committee of Parliament says will lobby for enactment of the much waited Access to Information Bill (ATI) during upcoming meeting of Parliament.
Members of the Bwaila Media Club (BMC), on Wednesday had an audience Chakwera, to seek his support in pushing for the tabling of the bill and objectively pass it amid delay ‘tactics’ from government to take the bill to the forthcoming meeting of Parliament.
Few weeks ago in Salima, President Peter Mutharika promised to take the bill to the first meeting of the 46th Session of Parliament which begins this Friday, saying all the processes were finalized.
This pronouncement was reiterated by Minister of Information Jappie Mhango during the recent meeting of some Cabinet Ministers and Members of Civil Society in Lilongwe.
However, the promises are unlikely to be met now as Leader of House in the National Assembly, Francis Kasaila disclosed to journalists on Monday in Lilongwe that the bill still awaits final inspection by Cabinet.
He said it is not on the list of the business for the next meeting of National Assembly.
Chakwera shared BMC concern over the delays by government to take the bill to parliament and promised to “seriously” take the responsibility of encouraging all members from his party and others in opposition on how they can help push for the tabling of the bill.
“I would say that am with you” he said, “The message you brought has been received and warmly so. And that if Lord willing we should even incorporate your concerns in some of things that we say.”
The opposition leader also underscored that Access to Information Bill is very important.
He said the bill empowers people to have information that is needed in order for them to appreciate what their own government is doing. And that with comprehensive view of what is happening they are able to make informed decisions.
“Let information that the public needs to have be made available. Not just on demand… but when such is needed however, there should be a backing of the law that says you have that right to access that information,” said Chakwera.
“We are with you,” he affirmed .“I am particularly would love for the information to be available to anyone because issues of accountability and transparency are important to us all” added the opposition leader with emphasis that information is critical in an age “like ours”
In his remarks Chairperson for the Media, Information and Communications Committee of Parliament, Samuel Kawale, said was “disappointed and discouraged” to learn that Government is keeping on delaying the bill which has stalled for so many years.
“If there were issues that needed to be addressed they should have been brought earlier on, so that we sit down again, talk over them and make sure that all the grey areas are sorted out” he said
“As Committee, our major task from now on, is to work alongside with media houses and other stakeholders to lobby government to make sure that this bill is tabled in parliament and passed into law” assured Kawale
Meanwhile, leader of the Bwaila Media Club delegation, Steve Chilundu has expressed his profound gratitude for the promising remarks from the Leader of Opposition and the Chairperson for the Media, Information and Communications of Parliament.
Chilundu said BMC will continue to meet with various stakeholders to ask them lobby government to table and pass the Access to Information Bill during the Meeting of National Assembly which begins this week.
Bwaila Media Club has also issued a statement expressing concern over, government recent ambiguity and dilly dallying in its commitment to table and pass the bill.
Government spokesman, Jappie Mhango stresses that the political will that Access to Information Bill should be tabled during the November 2015 sitting of the National Assembly 2015 has not changed.
“The fact of the matter is that the processing of the Bill is at a very advanced stage, and everything is being done in keeping with the President’s commitment to the people of Malawi.
“It is worth reminding the public that passing of the Access to Information legislation was part of the campaign promises of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which was given the mandate to govern. As such passing of that Bill is one of the priorities of Government,” Mhango said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :