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[Blog] Access to information: the ongoing debate

Texte: « Où en est le droit des citoyens à l’information à Maurice ? G. Robertson proposait de réduire la déclassification des dossiers à 20 ans » (Krish Ponnusamy, Le Défi Quotidien,
12.10.2020)


Comments: Mauritius is sadly earning a reputation of engaging a debate on fundamental issues affecting the life of its citizens and not being able in many cases to reach workable solutions. Democracy Watch will mention a few of these issues, namely:

• Constitutional changes for the second Republic

• Electoral Reforms

• Financing of Political parties

• Independence of Institutions

• Transparency in recruitment of Public Service staff

• Political nominees on Boards and Committees • Appointment of Advisers

• Review of powers of the Public Accounts Committee

Despite the commissioning of expert reports on the many of the above issues, successive governments have dragged their feet. We discuss for the sake of discussing, forgetting that we cannot go round in a vicious circle without finding a meaningful solution.

This situation is distressing for citizens and will no doubt contribute to a gradual loss of confidence in the government. It is high time for the government to stop dilly dallying and for the Prime Minister to show leadership and rise to the expectation of the citizens relating to freedom of information.

A case in point is the painful discussion on the Freedom of Information Bill. We spent days, months and even years debating on the merit of such legislation. The former Prime Minister, Dr N.Ramgoolam, daringly mandated a highly eminent jurist Geoffrey Roberston, to “survey our media laws and draw up a modern law which would fully respect human rights and provide for the greatest degree of transparency consistent with individual privacy and government efficiency".

The intention was good, but when the draft report was made public in 2013 there was surprisingly no follow up. However, the main political parties included the freedom of information in their electoral manifestos in 2014 elections without the government doing anything to implement the Roberston recommendations.

In the 2019 election, no mention at all was made of the freedom of information. It simply disappeared on the radar.

There is a new flicker of hope. Last Friday (9.10.2020) a new NGO, the People’s Voices Network, was launched at the University of Mauritius to reach out to as many citizens as possible and engage them in discussions on fundamental national issues. The launching ceremony was marked by a roundtable debate precisely on the freedom of information. Democracy Watch welcomes the mission of the People’s Voice Network and hopes that a sound networking among the NGOs on specific issues can constitute a new driving force for concrete action.

Democracy Watch Mauritius

 

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