ATI Awaits President Mutharika’s Assent
Information Minister Malison Ndau is vague on the obviousness of President Peter Mutharika assenting to the Access to Information Bill which the opposition played parliament to pass Wednesday night.
President Peter Mutharika has made it abundantly clear that he would not assent to the bill if parliament made amendments to it. But Parliamentarians did make the amendments.
At 8:15 Wednesday, 15 December, 2016, after the vote count on the controversial bill on Access to Information was through; the opposition in parliament carried the day.
This followed a protracted and heated disagreed between the government side and opposition. The night time discussion signified the seriousness the matter was viewed.
The debate took all afternoon, as the government benches put up resistance with leader of the house, Dr. George Chaponda moving motions to have it suspended or referred it to the media and communications and the legal affairs committees of the house arguing it required further consultations.
It was clear from the start government did not want the bill passed yesterday.
However, all the attempts to delay the process were frustrated by the opposition which put its foot down and capitalized on its numerical might in the house.
But the procedure requires that before the law is used, the state president must assent to it. That virtually takes the authority back in the government fold.
President Peter Mutharika has previously made it abundantly clear he would not pend his signature to the bill if parliament made changes to it. Will he live up to that?
Minister of Information, Malison Ndau, responds.
“There have been so many presidents in between, no one took the courage to bring me it to this parliament it's only Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika who has the couragesly accepted the bill to come to parliament. So the issue of the president assenting to the bill, that, I cannot comment," Ndau said.
For Leader of the opposition Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the most logical direction for President Mutharika to take is listen to the voice of the majority.
“Any law has to be respected and to be applied in a manner that is good for the citizenry and we trust that this is for additional interest but we were determined to have it done. We trust that the president will assent to it,” Chakwera said.
Chairperson for the Media and Communications Committee of the house is Samuel Kawale is as excited as he says presidential assent is what he expects.
“I'm expecting him to do the right thing the right thing is for him to assent to the bill and make it into law. So it's gazetted and it's implemented if he doesn't do that he is very unprofessional and it is very unfortunate for a head of state to do that,” Kawale said.
For the past 14 years, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Malawi) and other like-minded interest groups advocated for the bill which moved back and forth as government put up resistance.
MISA Malawi Chairperson Thom Khanje says the president has a constitutional duty to protect the interests of Malawians by assenting to the bill.
“ATI is a constitutional provision. There are things that Malawians are expecting from the bill and those things are those that have been approved by parliament. So I think the president has an obligation to serve the interests of Malawians and not his own or interests of his political party,” Khanje said.
Previously, President Peter Mutharika vowed to withhold assent to the bill if its form was amended from the version he preferred.