DURING THE LAST two weeks Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) had a team of lawyers, media officers and Civic Education Trainers stationed in Santo. While in Santo the team visited several communities in Luganville and in east and south Santo to talk to people about the Right to Information (RTI) as well as to conduct voter awareness programs.
The tour to the island of Santo found out that people are becoming more eager to understand and be aware of the laws that exist in Vanuatu. On the first day of the awareness program which took place at La Plage over 500 people visited the Information Booth that was set up throughout the day. The next day, the 20th of November, the team set up tent at the Market area, and by the end of the day information resources (brochures, booklets and etc.) prepared for that day had run out.
From all the events that were organised in Santo one particular fact resonated throughout; the peoples interest to own a copy of the Vanuatu National Constitution. “The last time I saw a copy of the National Constitution was in the early 80’s,” explained an individual when given his own copy of the Mama Law, “this is my second time to see the Mama Law, and now I have my own copy.”
Transparency International Vanuatu delivered a total of over 500 free constitution books in Bislama to members of the public in Luganville and the surrounding communities. TIV also distributed copies of the Corruption and the Rights and Duties Booklets that were published by Transparency International Vanuatu.
The main activity of the Santo tour took place on the 23rd of November at the VNPF conference room, over twenty people attended the event including the former Secretary General of Sanma Province Mr. Joel Path. The activity was the first of a series of Right to Information public consultations that will be held in several other locations around Vanuatu from February to the month of June in 2016.
Transparency International Vanuatu works to share with the public the contents of the Right to Information (RTI) bill which is still under review and for the public to express their thoughts. Once the bill is passed by parliament and gazetted it promises to bring about a legal path for transparency and accountability in the government.
The Right to Information means that persons and organizations have a legally recognized right to request and obtain access to information, subject to limited exceptions, from public, and in some in-stances, private bodies performing public functions.
Furthermore, individuals will have the right to access and correct all personal information held by public and private bodies about themselves. Information means any materials such as; records, documents, memos, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, proceedings, decisions, policies, financial information, services, priorities of government and etc.
The Right to Information is derived from the fundamental rights and freedom of an individual stated in article 5 (1) (g) of the Constitution of Vanuatu; freedom of expression. The RTI Policy was approved in 2013. It commits the Government to release information to the public, subject to certain exceptions protective of a number of interests such as national security, personal information and privacy, and certain commercial information.
As mentioned, a RTI bill has been drafted and the Government is now taking steps to implement the Right to Information Policy. Evidently, If citizens have information on how the government and the public institutions work, then we can express our views and strategically make a contribution to the development of Vanuatu.
The TIV team also visited the community of Port Olry in the east of Santo and Mavunlep in south Santo. For more information regarding the mentioned topics please contact us at Transparency International Vanuatu; Tel; 25715, Email; firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O 355 Port Vila.
The RTI campaign program is supported financially by the Pacific Leadership Program. The Pacific Leadership Program (PLP) supports Transparency International Vanuatu’s work with Government’s Right to Information (RTI) Unit to raise awareness and promote public interest in the RTI Policy and Bill. PLP’s support has enabled TIV to campaign in communities and schools and host public forums on the RTI Policy and Bill, using its strong networks in the provinces. This process has built the public’s knowledge and understanding of the principles of good leadership and the importance of government transparency and given the RTI Unit insights into how the Policy can be effectively implemented.
The Pacific Leadership Program (PLP) is a regional initiative of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that recognises the pivotal role of leadership in development. PLP builds, applies and shares knowledge on developmental leadership (i.e. individuals, organisations and other stakeholders working together on inclusive policy and institutional change for the public good).