Majority for a more comprehensive one that comes through consideration and discussion
The private member draft RTI bill sponsored and proposed by National Council (NC) member Sangay Khandu failed to garner the required-support to be tabled as an urgent bill in the 10th parliamentary session following discussions in the NC during its session on June27.
Proponent of the bill, Sangay Khandu in his final attempt to table the bill moved the motion to call government’s attention to the law.
Eight NC members supported his move while six voted against the motion and nine members abstained from voting.
The house saw an increase in the number of members voting for the bill compared to the plenary session of NC last month.
Sangay Khandu received significant support from the house on moving the motion to persuade the government to do more advocacy work on RTI.
Apart from two members, the house supported his move to call for greater awareness on RTI among all Bhutanese citizens both urban and rural.
This clearly indicated the house’s general inclination in favor of RTI but for a comprehensive, well debated and discussed one.
Eminent member Karma Yezer Raydi said there is a need for RTI but at the same time it is important to incorporate all the aspects into the bill.
He said one important aspect is the Bhutanese culture about how we go about when it comes to seeking information from government agencies and a host of issues that need to be considered before enacting the law. “As of now we have not even identified those areas, forget about coming to a decision”, he added.
“We don’t want RTI to be misused”, he said adding that not having RTI at the moment will not put us into so much disadvantage. “We have the luxury of time”, he said.
He said unlike other bills such as a contract bill, RTI has a wide range of issues that need to be understood and incorporated for which more time is required. “We need time to discuss not only in parliament but with public as a whole”, he concluded.
NC’s legislative committee Chairperson Kuenlay Tshering highlighted the possible shortcomings that might arise in the legislation given the members’ haste and alacrity to introduce the law within the 10th and last session of parliament.
Sarpang NC member Karma Donnen Wangdi feared that the law may trigger a lot of court cases for the want of information and the lack of it.
In response Sangay Khandu said people would of course request for all kind of information and the constitution doesn’t specify what information though it guarantees the right to information. He expressed the need of legislation to support the constitutional guarantee which would actually reduce court cases since it helped define the kind of information which can be requested by public.
Dagana NC member Sonam Dorji said it was neither too early nor late to discuss and enact the law. He added that the law will never be introduced if it is not started at some point.
NC’s deputy Chairperson Dr Sonam Kinga recalled the communication minister’s remark during the fifth session of NC when he said RTI is a priority.
He said it is important to ask what the government has done till date about the law they agreed was top priority.