“Yes, yes, government will table the Access to Information bill”. And with these remarks, President Peter Mutharika ended his speech delivered during the opening of the 46th Session of Parliament on Friday.
Mutharika’s remarks came barely three days after the country was informed by Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Jappie Mhango and Leader of the House Francis Kasaila that the Access to Information (ATI) bill will not be tabled in this sitting of Parliament as earlier on communicated by President Mutharika because, according to Mhango and Kasaila, the bill needed proper scrutiny and ironing out some complex issues.
Those of us who have been advocating the tabling of the bill which has been gathering dust for close to a decade now, were crushed. Our hope to finally have the bill debated and probably passed into law faded away. Government has been dilly-dallying for so long.
I, for one, what I made out of Mhango’s remarks was that Mutharika lied to us. He wanted our vote and now he has abandoned the ATI bill—tabling of the ATI bill was one of the main issues in DPP manifesto.
Now, we are more confused. Mhango’s statement last week contradicted Mutharika’s remarks that the bill will be tabled, fast forward to Friday, Mutharika’s remarks contradicted Mhango’s.
Who is telling the truth and who is lying here? Should we say Mhango and Kasaila came up with that decision on their own or with Mutharika’s consent?
As government spokesperson, I want to believe Mhango did not just wake up, organise a media briefing without the knowledge and consent of Mutharika. But, surely, one of them is lying to us, I don’t know who. Time will tell.
I want to believe that the public outcry after Mhango’s announcement has moved Mutharika to reverse the decision not to table the bill. If this is true, then we have a big problem. It means Mutharika and government do not necessarily see the need and urgency to have the ATI bill tabled in Parliament, they are only reacting to people’s reactions and somehow only want to calm down the public, giving them a sense that they are on it when they are not.
We have heard the phrase “at a very advanced stage” for the past years that we no longer trust anyone who says such words. We know it’s a lie.
Now that Mutharika has said the bill will be tabled, we are keeping our fingers crossed, trusting that it will indeed be tabled and that we will not be hearing again, someone contradicting the President and vice-versa.n