Passage of landmark legislation should be transparent
More than a week has passed since the Council of Ministers quietly approved the draft Anticorruption Law – one of the most defining pieces of legislation to emerge in Cambodia and a vital step in keeping our nation on the determined journey towards democratic reform. However, since the draft law’s approval on December 11, no one outside of the Council of Ministers has seen it.
This lack of transparency contrasts with the principles of good governance that the Royal Government of Cambodia proudly promotes. Fourteen years in the making – and with considerable contributions by civil society – the approved draft still has not been made public. That civil society and the press have not yet been given a chance to review the draft Anticorruption Law is disconcerting and leaves a number of critical questions hanging. Most prominent among the unanswered mysteries is the disappearance of almost three dozen articles that were included in a previous draft but have now been removed. In the interest of transparency, we would like to know what articles were cut and why.
In addition, it has been reported that nongovernmental organisation workers will be required to disclose their personal assets within 60 days of passage – an alarming last-minute addition. Asset disclosure provisions are a standard feature of anticorruption laws to ensure that elected or appointed officials who oversee and spend public money and wield political power are working in our best interests, not turning the public purse into their private pocketbook. This important provision should be properly applied, not used as an instrument for fishing expeditions into the finances of private individuals.
We are pleased and appreciative to see our government leaders follow through on their pledge to formally tackle corruption. However, we must be part of the entire lawmaking process, from the first word put on paper to passage of the law and through final implementation. In keeping with our government’s commitment to transparency, mechanisms must exist to ensure openness and inclusiveness as the draft Anticorruption Law wends through legislative channels.
We do expect the pledge to make the draft Anticorruption Law available to the public will be honoured before debate begins in the National Assembly. An even better demonstration of our government’s commitment to good governance, however, would be public consultations that provide a real opportunity for all stakeholders to evaluate and discuss the law before a final vote is taken.
The closed process to date undermines the spirit of the law, which aims, in part, to improve and ensure integrity and accountability in all public transactions. Talk of promised changes that the law will bring needs to be reflected in all actions surrounding its passage. Properly implemented, this law will create the foundation for accelerated development and serve as a building block on the road to prosperity. We eagerly await the promised chance to help our government create a culture of integrity and a brighter future.
San Chey is the president and founder
of the Khmer Institute for National Development
and a member of the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability.