July 10, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
Hidden cabinet decisions
Right to information is a fundamental right granted to the people by the constitution. Article 27 of the constitution states that “every citizen shall have the right to seek information on any matters of concern to her/him or the public.” The existing law makes it mandatory for the government to make public the decisions of the cabinet meetings after 48 hours of each meeting. But the government of K P Sharma Oli is found to have been flouting this law. The last time his office uploaded cabinet decisions on its website was on May 30, 2018. Since then, Oli has summoned cabinet meetings several times, but the decisions of those meetings have not been made public. Yes, the government spokesperson briefs the media about cabinet decisions but the briefings only include such decisions that build a “positive” image of the government. The decisions that are deemed controversial are not revealed. Why is the government doing so? We can think of two possible reasons. Either the government is failing on duty to inform the people or is making decisions that are of far-reaching consequences for the people and the country or such decisions are against broader interest of people, country and the spirit of the constitution. We sincerely hope that this is not true but either case is unacceptable and unjust in a democracy.
Coincidentally, this revelation comes at a time when there is a widespread criticism against modus operandi of Oli government and people have become deeply disenchanted. Hiding government decisions from the public and the media is not only against fundamental principle of transparency, good governance and accountability but it also raises question about the government intention. If the government is working as per the spirit of the constitution and to address the pressing needs of people, the more it makes its decisions public more it would gain wider public support. It bears reminding the prime minister that “good governance” and “transparency” are the words he has been using in every public speech since he assumed office in February. Shortly after assuming office, Oli’s cabinet had made public the decisions made not just by his cabinet but also by erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government. Only then we came to know that Deuba had only announced to increase the housing grant for earthquake victims but formal decision had not been taken.
Prime Minister’s press advisor has claimed that Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers (OPMCM) hasn’t been able to upload cabinet decisions on office website due to “technical reasons.” If that is the case, it is even more objectionable. The office of the executive head should display optimum technical capacity to make vital decisions public properly. Hiding decisions from the public goes against the spirit of Right to Information Act as well. In the recent times, Oli government has given the impression of being totally apathetic toward what the people say. Prime Minister himself has been defaulting on many of the good promises he initially made. He should remember that this kind of action will erode his own legitimacy. When the government fails on simple and basic duty of informing the people about what it is doing, people will stop trusting it.