Malawi opposition members of parliament (MPs) were steadfast to object to DPP-led government machinations to suffocate the Access to Information Bill (ATI) as they wanted to waive Standing Orders to accommodate other bills and they pressed on to have it passed in a late night.
Leader of opposiiton Lazarous Chakwera: MCP championed the passing of Information Bill
Information Bill allows the public to seek for any information from government, and obligates public servants to make sure they provide that information, or risk hefty fines or jail terms.
If the government refuses to grant the information, or hides some of the information, then the public can report the matter to the Malawi Human Rights Commission for review and enforcement orders.
The opposition defeated government after two division roll calls, which proved that they had numerical strength 66 votes against 55 present to vote.
Minister of Information, Malison Ndau observed that there were some areas that needed to be looked into before the bill was passed and asked suspension to Friday to consult further with the powers-that-be.
Ndau observed that among the areas that needed further scrutiny was the clause which empowers the Human Rights Commission to play an oversight role in ensuring implementation of the bill, saying this was in conflict with the mandate of the commission.
But opposition pressed hard to have the piece of legislation enacted and they sailed through.
Dedza East MP Juliana Lunguzi (MCP) said the passing of the Information Bill is “victory for Malawians and democracy, saying Malawians have waited for too long for the ATI bill.
Chairman of the media committee, Sam Kawale said he expects President Peter Mutharika “will not take long to assent to it to be law.”
Former ministers who is Member of Parliament for Mwanza West Paul Chibingu, told the House “there was enough consultation on the bill and we don’t need to delay it any further, we should know that today we can be in government while tom morrow in opposition. We must not do things to please an individual.
Access to Information Bill has failed to see the right of the day since it was first introduced in 2009 with all succeeding government failing to bring it to the level it has come.
Media Council of Malawi executive director Vales Machila and Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chapter Thom Khanje have described the passing of the Information Bill as “victory for everyone in Malawi.”
After the bill was passed in the House, opposition MPs erupted into celebrations and singing songs: “Ailira! Ailira!” – Meaning the ruling party were mourning as democracy triumped.
Now all government information will be up for grabs to anyone interested, unless the State “proves” that the information has to remain classified or that relates to national security includes that on military strategy.
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