It is genuinely a relief to hear members of the present administration making full use of phrases like transparency, accountability and good governance; ideas that they seemed to scoff and laugh at during the tenure of the previous administration.
At a recent sitting of the Grenada Senate, Leader of Government Business, Senator Simon Steill made repeated use of these words and phrases in explaining the merits of a new bill which if passed into law will ensure that the country’s financial resources are prudently managed by the people in charge.
Why they should need to be compelled by law to do this is a different discussion altogether but certainly a few years ago when former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas constantly emphasized honesty, transparency, accountability and good governance as the pillars upon which he builds his governance he was laughed at and ridiculed by members of the present administration.
Even in the houses of Parliament, certain members made it their duty to take these ideas to task asking things like whether people can eat transparency and accountability.
Nothing wrong however with seeing the light in the end and determining that those are worthwhile ideas after all and aspiring to operated and govern by them.
The hope is of course that the words have not just been inserted in to the administrative vocabulary because it will somehow convince the populace that what is being done is being done in their interest. It must rather reflect an honest commitment to ensuring that it is in fact so; that these ideals have been seriously adopted by the government and will be used as their sceptre of leadership. However, transparency and accountability goes considerably further than justifying a bill put to the house. It is supposed to infuse every aspect of the functioning of the society.
These principles are not easily adopted, especially in a situation where certain will accept and justify the most disgusting ill, the mist insidious lie on the grounds that “it is politics”. Sincere adherence to the principles of honesty, transparency, accountability and good governance can only be exercised by those willing to put their political future on the line to stand up for what they consider right and just for the country they serve.
Talking about transparency and accountability, members of the legislature needs to understand that any discussion and/or decision that take place within the walls of the houses of parliament will affect one way or the other, the lives of the people of the country. If the will affect their lives then they are supposed to know about it and understand it.
What applies in Grenada right now is that the ordinary Grenadian is effectively left out of the discussion. Most of the time the general population knows nothing about a new bill or proposal until it comes to parliament and a news item comes out in the media. The population simply hears that this or that bill was presented to parliament; it has been passed by the Lower House and has now gone on the Upper House for debate there.
Even after that is done the people still do not know anything because even the news gives the information in the stiff technical terms used in parliament. There is generally no arrangement to educate the population as to the meaning of these bills and potential laws, quite a number of which have been emerging in recent years. In addition, the debates on the bills are not effectively shared with the public. The debate is where views and perspectives different to that of the government are accessed and people deserve to hear different views and make the own analyses and decisions on it. Fact is not many persons attend sittings of parliament and therefore are not privy to the debates in real time. The government’s official media, the Government Information Service broadcasts the contributions of the government members in both houses over and over-in prime time-but relegates the input of opposition members and those contributions which counter the government’s position to ridiculous times of night and “fore-day morning”.
One cannot confirm whether this is deliberately done to make sure that as few persons as possible access those contribution and therefore remain blissfully unaware of the opposing views which tent to explain in more detail what those bills mean.
This is itself an act of injustice since it smells frightfully like deliberately withholding information from the people and this can never be the manifestation of transparency and accountability.
The Right to Information act passed by India in 2005 has as its objectives; to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed. Such an act in any country is a big step towards making the citizens informed about the activities of the Government and this they have an unarguable right to. According to the Carter Center, access to information is one of the keys to democracy. Allowing people to seek and receive public documents serves as a critical tool for fighting corruption, enabling citizens to more fully participate in public life, making governments more efficient, encouraging investment, and helping persons exercise their fundamental human rights. The evidence is clear that the Government of Grenada is not doing much if anything, to ensure citizens’ right to information.