Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) has challenged President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika to publish “inconsistencies” found in the much awaited Access to Information Bill (ATI).

The two NGOs said this in a joint statement released on Wednesday signed by Gift Trapence and Timothy Mtambo when reacting to Mutharika remarks during a press briefing held on Monday in the capital Lilongwe.

In his speech, Mutharika said the Bill has a certain part which says future parliamentarians will not have the power or mandate to make any amendments to the bill, saying this is not right.

But reacting to the claims, CHRR and Cedep in a statement wondered where the said inconsistencies are coming from.

“We have the draft Access to Information Bill and have never come across a clause which says Parliament shall not have the power to repeal the Access to Information law. The Access to Information Bill we have was informed by progressive model laws on access to information.

“To that end, we challenge government to publish all the said “inconsistencies” for the public to appreciate them,” reads in part the statement.

The two NGOs have also urged government to publicise the ATI Bill, once all the so-called ‘ironing out’ and ‘aligning’ of the bill with other laws is done, before tabling it in Parliament.

“This would enable citizens and other stakeholders to check if there are any adulterations in the Bill. Otherwise, we are bound to believe that the President is simply buying cheap public sympathy to justify the delay in enacting the bill.

“Given the culture of secrecy on how government is run, compounded a recent background of plunder of resources, Malawians can simply ill afford to have an adulterated piece of legislation that will fall short filling its democratic space. Malawians need a law that will add value to democracy,” adds the statement.

CHRR and Cedep have said it is undemocratic for the President to take issues with ultimatums issued to him by the citizens.

“Statements like “anybody putting a deadline on Peter Mutharika, I will not pay attention to that” have no room in a democracy.

“As an employee of the electorate, the President must be accommodative enough, fully cognizant that it is within the citizens rights to issue deadlines to their demands especially on matters that require urgent address by his leadership.

Added the statement: “Otherwise, we find the President’s aversion to deadlines as tantamount to dictatorship. We see this as Mutharika’s calculated strategy to stifle the civic space by instilling fear in the citizens, and also impinging on the freedom of expression. This is retrogressive to democracy.”

CHRR and Cedep said Mutharika’s cold cold attitude to ultimatums is not helping matters at all citing NAC-gate and MSB sale saga.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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