Malawi government on Tuesday created excuses to derail the process of passing the Access to Information (ATI) Bill with amendments which the Legal Affairs and Media Committees suggested after consultations.
Government side suffocated the enactment of the ATI because amongst the amendments, there is a proposal that tax-funded constitutional body the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) should act as the oversight body on the right to information.
MHRC was removed by government on that role complicating the people’s ability to challenge authorities for information.
But Minister of Information, communications technology Malison Ndau told the House that MHRC has refused to take up the role of a refreee over human and other breachers authorities may make after the Bill is passed.
Ndau said MHRC is too busy to have added responsibilities.
But chairperson of media, Sam Kawale and legal affairs, Maxwell Thyolela – all from opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) challenged the minister that he was not telling the truth because MHRC had indicated already they were willing to take up the role when the Bill is passed into a law.
The opposition lawmakers argued that MHRC had only pleaded for allocating of resources to the commission for operations in the role.
But government did not wnat to proceed to debate and pass the ATI and Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya called for a vote on whether the committee stage debate be curtailed.
The ‘No’ from the opposition carried the day with 56 votes while the ‘yes’ from government lost with 52 votes.
However, there were 83 absentee MPs during the voting.
Leader of the House, George Chaponda asked for the committe stateg debate to be deferred to another day while the opposition pressed hard to conclude the debate.
The 46th session of parliament has few days to wind up and ATI bill may be aborted by government with its delaying tactics and machinations to frustrate the process of enacting into law..
It is expected the Bill debate will continue on Wednesday as opposition demand that ATI must be passed without unnecessary debates as it is the beacon of checks and balances in a democratic society.
Late last year, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said donors tied the Infomration Billl to conditions that would see resumption of aid if fulfilled.
But President Peter Mutharika challenged that he would not sign the bill into law even if passed by Parliament if it maintains some sections he expressed displeasure with.
Information law has been argued to be critical to governance and democracy as it promotes the principles of transparency and accountability.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :