Right to information bill will be beneficial

INFORMATION is power; every citizen of the country has the right to know any information concerning the government.

The campaign team that consists of Media Association of Vanuatu, people with disability, Transparency International and Right To Information unit (RTI) made an awareness that will help people know the importance of right to information.

During the campaign, the team outlined the importance of the right to information bill that yet will go before parliament in November this year.

Manager of RTI, Harold Obed, said the bill will give people access to know what the government is doing with its budget, its visits overseas and other information that will be accessible after this bill is approved.

“This right to information bill will not only benefit the people but also the government; it will help the government to keep all its files safe,” he said.

“Since 1980 when we got our independence, our grandfathers have been working hard for us to be independent. This right to information bill is also part of what they fought for.

“We have been trying our best to be the first island in the Pacific to have this bill to be passed in 2008 but then it didn’t happen, and Tonga became the first country to have their right to information bill passed in the parliament.

“We also tried our best every time during the parliament sitting if rights to information bill pass but nothing happen with the past governments. With this government, I can assure you all that this bill will be passed.”

Mr Obed confirmed that they have met with Prime Minister and he assured them that in November during the parliament sitting the bill will be voted and accepted.

“We will be fortunate if the bill is passed but we have to make sure that we use the bill precisely and in a proper way, not just using it to get personal information about someone just to criticize him or her,” said Mr Obed.

“This is our right to know whatever information about the government is doing inside the country and also outside the country.

“Today most of our government offices do not want to give out information but with this bill it will help us to know everything happening within the government department.”

A representative from Transparency International, Douglas Malosu, said they went to some of the islands in Vanuatu doing awareness about right to information and it was successful.

“Most of the people in the islands agreed and strongly want this bill to be passed,” he said.

Mr Malosu said one of the chief comments on the awareness was: ‘At last we free, meaning that it took 36 years after the independence for us to have right to get information from the government freely without excuses from public servants’.

The team has already held awareness sessions in Tanna, Malekula, Ambrym, Pentecost, Ambae and Luganville. Next month they will visit Erromango and the Shepherd islands.