Many may probably say yes but there are others who feel, it is as good a time as any to debate it. While not many would refute it’s importance in democratizing governance, the concern really for many with whom I have spoken or interacted with, who have expressed reservations, seem to be one revolving around unpreparedness as a society. As I have already shared my thoughts on it several times, I will like to make an attempt at making a short opinion once again.
It has been my experience through these four years in office that every parliamentary session and for that matter, almost each plenary of the National Council sitting, issues raised and discussed ranged from delayed land compensation to poor public service delivery, to inaccessibility to certain information or absence of good and meaningful information, from poor accountability to non-uniform application of laws and rules and found a resounding consensus that our good governance initiatives needed strengthening. Interactions in public too found overlap with many of these issues, all pin-pointing towards seeking and demanding better accountability. I do not find any disagreement here, or atleast that’s how I feel. That is one of the primary reasons for my proposal for a debate in the National Council on RTI.
A view, perhaps of which a debate is become even more important is that, is it, as a society too early for Bhutan to debate RTI or consider enacting a RTI legislation? I believe this is a very important question put forth for consideration. After all, the RTI law has to be driven by us Bhutanese for it to really effect change, it will not, like many other laws, act on its own. So are we ready?
Is there a demand? Will RTI become just another law?
Many issues concerning transparency and accountability as I read it, is indicative of the need for RTI. For further understanding, a consultative process is due and could be undertaken to further enrich the debate if we were to agree on a debate. But news of reports with potential to bring out the truth to start an honest discussion not coming out in public, I would think, without grassroots calling for it, could be a logical demand for more transparency. This is one of the primary reasons on which I base the need for such a debate to happen. Unlike laws which need agencies to come out and act, RTI will see the public come forth and use the law and by public I mean individuals, groups of individuals and the news media. It will drive the process forward and seek implementation in the process. So with greater awareness of the law that would begin with the initiation of the debate and other consistent efforts, it may see progressive usage with an increasing civic engagement, bringing people into more contact with decisions. This I feel also is an important component of our greater aim of becoming a vibrant democracy and it is in our interest to cultivate and further a culture of democracy.
No additional process in creating information for RTI
As far as information is concerned, each time a decision is made affecting lives, an important piece of information is created and stored somewhere even today without RTI. So to produce information for seekers as a result of RTI would not result in the creation of any new information. It has simply to do with providing it to the public.
Will seats of power like RTI?
Generally the answer is quite the obvious.
I believe we are ready for this important debate. Some may think its a bit too early and others may strongly believe it is time but I think without a debate, we can never really know if we are here. A parliamentary debate is ideal but a public debate, to see what we think of it as a society is critical too. As parliament considers it, there is nothing to hold back a debate in public on this important aspect of good governance. This is not to indicate a retiring effort but to encourage more engagement so that in the end, more Bhutanese become part of this on-going consideration.