Malawi rights groups push MPs to pass Access to Information Bill

Malawi’s rights groups, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)  and Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) are expressing dismay over  ‘conspicuous’ missing of the Access to Information Bill on the list of bills to be discussed during the ongoing parliamentary session which started on Monday.

In a statement which Nyasa Times possesses, signed by CHRR’s Acting Executive Director Timothy Mtambo and CEDEP’s Executive Director Gift Trapence, the rights bodies say they have learnt with disbelief that numerous bills which got drafted long after the Information Bill got passed while the Access to Information Bill is still undergoing some final touches.

“Final touches till when? While we appreciate the need to fine-tune the bill before tabling, we find the fine-tuning process unacceptably too long,” reads the statement in part.

Its reminds the  Parliament and Executive branches of Government that the Access to Information Bill is a Constitutional provision which can only be exercised upon its enactment.

Gift Trapence :  Information Bill should be passed
Gift Trapence : Information Bill should be passed

“Section 37 of our republican constitution is loud and clear: “Subject to any act of parliament every person shall have the right of access to all information held by the State or any of its organs at any level of Government in so far as such information is required for the exercise of their rights.”

The organizations therefore say they find the continued procrastination in passing the bill a violation of Constitutional right.

“The absence of such an important legal document in place has also greatly impinged on press freedom and freedom of expression.”

According to the statement failure to pass the Access to Information Bill has resulted into citizens and journalists having difficulties accessing information on issues such as mining industry, government’s procurement and expenditures in general and even the recent cash-gate scandal.

“And, while there are high expectations on Assets Declaration Bill, we at CHRR and CEDEP feel the spirit in passing the bill does not augur with the delay in enacting the Access to Information Bill. It is common sense that the two bills are very crucial and they complement each other. In fact, they are inseparable and once passed they will go a long way in safeguarding the human and peoples’ rights.

The statement says the passing of the Bill will help “inculcating the culture of transparency and accountability in public finance” and the nation at large which will also contribute in our fight against evil act such as fraud, corruption, rooting and plundering of resources.

“We sincere implore to the Executive and Parliament to seriously consider passing the Access to Information Bill this time around. Otherwise the delay is reaching intolerable levels.”

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