Human rights campaigners in Malawi are urging President Peter Mutharika to support Access to Information Bill that has been passed by Parliament by assenting into law to improve accountability in government and reduce corruption.
Parliament with the urge of opposition on Wednesday passed the Information bill which has taken 12 years to get enacted.
Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) and other human rights activists joined the rest of Malawians in congratulating the opposition legislatures and celebrating the passing of the long awaited Access to Information Bill/
The opposition Members of Parliament (MP’s) stood firm to defeat the government MP’s on who through Leader of the House George Chaponda tried all they could to shield the opposition aiming at stopping the passing of the bill.
CEDEP Executive Director Gift Trapence told Nyasa Times that apart from different stakeholders, the opposition deserves a part on the back for their tireless effort in making sure that the bill is finally passed.
He therefore said now the nation must rally together in reaping the results of a legislation that has taken us such a long time to have.
“The Centre for Development congratulate the Parliament more especially the Opposition members on using their numerical strength to have the Access to Information Bill passed.
“Parliament on both sides of the divide must be congratulated for exhaustively discussing and passing this bill as such is what democracy entails” said Trapence in a statement released on Thursday made available to Nyasa Times.
Another human rights campaigner Rev Macdonald Sembereka told Nyasa Times that he is happy that finally “democracy has won.”
Sembereka said: ” Malawians must breathe a sigh of relief that finally democracy has won and it is my hope that now that the bill has been passed, the onus is on the State President to do the right thing, which is to assent to it in its entirety.”
This was exactly in line with what Trapence said in his statement.
“Like Parliament, the President’s powers are held sorely on the premise of the citizens’ trust. I
do hope that the State President will stand out as a democrat on this piece of legislation” wrote Trapence.
According to the activists, with the increased levels of corruption in the country, it is expected that the Access to Information law will help in containing the voice by making information readily available to the public.
Among other things, it is believed that the Access to information laws will also improve welfare of Malawians in different sectors for instance the right to health and right to education.
“With ATI laws in place, government will feel compelled to disclose the whole process of drug acquisition ranging from the source. In education, citizens will have access to information on important issues like University selection criteria in full” said Trapence.
Warning on delay to assent
Activist Allie Mwachande has warned the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) against playing tricks in influencing or causing a delay for the President to delay in assenting to the Bill.
“DPP and UDF were unhappy with the bill from the word go and we are warning them against trying to influence the President not to assent the bill or causing a delay” said Mwachande without disclosing the next course of action.
He said the Information law shines a public light on issues that has long been kept hidden.
The Access to Information bill has been frustrated by three successive governments, amid heavy criticism from the media and civil society.
President Mutharika has previously said he would not approve it if certain amendments proposed by the government are rejected.
Chairperson of Media Institute of Southern Africa, Thom Khanje, has called on the President to sign the bill.
“The government has been operating in secret and now it is time for Malawians to demand expenditure of every penny,” Khanje said.
The Speaker is expected to send the bill to State House for President’s assent to make it law.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :