Maldives Official Signals RTI Bill May Move This Year

25 October 2012

The Speaker of the Parliament in the Maldives said Oct. 22 that a right to information bill could pass out of a committee by the end of this year, according to several news reports.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid make his comment at the conclusion of a one-day conference on access to information sponsored by Transparency Maldives. The last Parliament rejected an RTI bill in 2007 by one vote.

The chairman of  Parliament’s Social Affairs Committee has assured him that an RTI bill would be forwarded to the Parliament floor by the end of this year, Shahid said, reported Haveeruonline and Minivan News.

“Our society tended to make very deliberate demarcations between those who need to know, who should know and those who need not know,” he said, further adding, “I strongly believe access of information must be an indispensable part of any true democracy.”

Transparency Maldives Advocacy Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News, “We invited high level officials from relevant state institutions to the symposium. Our hope is that we can form partnerships to further promote RTI and advocate for passing the RTI bill currently in parliament with the best practices included in it.”

Speakers at the event included Senior Legal Officer for Freedom of Information and Expression at the Open Society Justice Initiative Sandra Coliver, Deputy Executive Director of the Open Democracy Advice Centre Mukelani Dimba, Legal Officer for the Centre for Law and Democracy Michael Karanicolas, Programme Coordinator of Access to Information Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Venkatesh Nayak, former Information Commissioner at the Indian Central Information Commission Shailesh Gandhi and Chairperson of local NGO Democracy House Mohamed Anil.

Right to information has been regulated in the Maldives from January 2009 under a presidential decree, following the failure to pass a bill in parliament in 2007, according to background information from Transparency Maldives. The current regulation covers executive ministries, but the legislation is broader in scope. In August 2008 a new constitution was ratified which recognizes freedom of information as a fundamental right. The government sent an RTI bill to parliament in November 2009.

“In addition to the executive, the RTI Act should also cover the parliament, the judiciary, the independent institutions, the state companies, NGOs and utility companies,” said Rasheed in his speech.

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