The rejection of the Access to Information bill by cabinet last week only demonstrates the calibre of our politicians and why this country will never develop, as long as we continue to entrust the affairs of the country with this type of politicians.
Indeed politicians are Malawi’s biggest liability and are the reason why the country remains the poorest on earth, even though it has been peaceful in the past 51 years.
A group of 20 self-serving politicians in form of cabinet ministers decided to throw away the Access to Information on the pretext that it had “inconsistencies” which they cannot even explain to the people of Malawi.
This is a bill that has gone through thorough consultations and reviews and has been endorsed by relevant experts who included university professors, information experts, government and private lawyers, principal secretaries and even cabinet ministers in the Legal Affairs Committee of the cabinet.
Can any person, therefore, buy the crap coming from cabinet which is trying to punch holes into the bill after only looking at the 53-page document for 20 or so minutes?
It is clear that President Peter Mutharika and his government don’t want the Access to Information legislation and will do everything possible to find fault with it so that it should never find its way into Parliament.
After all, this is just a group of typical Malawian politicians who are in government to serve their own interest of accumulating wealth through corruption and theft and never want anything that threatens the secrecy of their clandestine dealings and abuse of public resources while in government.
What makes the cabinet decision of Tuesday last week worrying, however, is that it contradicts promises President Mutharika has made to Malawians on the bill, starting with his manifesto during campaign prior to the May 2014 elections up to two weeks ago in his opening statement for the current sitting of Parliament.
The question many people are asking is: Did President Mutharika make the commitment of bringing the bill into the current meeting of Parliament before he had even gone through it? Or perhaps there are forces within the government who are more powerful than the president to the point where they can make him turnaround on his public commitments?
We are told that some powerful ministers led the crusade against the bill in the cabinet and that President Mutharika came into the meeting already charged up against it. Does this mean that the president does not trust the opinion of his own ministers in the cabinet committee on legal affairs? Isn’t the trashing of the bill by the President and his inner circle of ministers tantamount to a vote of no confidence to the other ministers in the cabinet committee on legal affairs?
Or perhaps politics and self serving prevailed more than reason and national interest on this matter?
If that is the case, why has President Mutharika continued to make promises on the bill? Were these genuine promises or just statements of convenience aimed at winning underserved public approvals?
Looking at the developments with the access to information bill, will Malawians be able to believe what the president promises or says again? Perhaps this explains the growing disillusionment among Malawians on the current government. Malawians may have seen more contradictions about this government similar to the Access to Information promises.
Perhaps the president and his government need to be reminded that the Access to Information legislation comes from the constitution under Section 37 which is aimed at giving the people of Malawi access to information held by the government and its organs.
Contrary to their fears, the bill is not for journalists or the media. It is about all the people in this country who shall have access to information they require for the exercise of their democratic, economic and social rights.
The era of secrecy in the affairs of government is long gone. We are now in the information age where people cannot accept to be kept in the dark on matters that affect their wellbeing and future.
Any leader or politician who wants to continue running the government without adhering to the principle of transparency and accountability belongs to the past and should not be entrusted with government in this day and age.
The enactment of the bill is in the best interest of the people of Malawi. Anything that goes against the wishes and aspirations of the people gets defeated in Malawi. Malawi is bigger than cabinet ministers or indeed a ruling party. Malawi and its people shall always prevail.
On the Access to Information Bill too, Malawians will prevail – no matter how long it takes or indeed regardless of any effort to frustrate the enactment of the bill. You can delay change, but you can’t stop it. It is just a matter of time. A big #ThumbsDown to President Mutharika and his cabinet!