Being at the Constituent Assembly nearly everyday for the past month or so has not, contrary to what people may think, helped me get most important documents out to the public. Until this day, there is no systemic way of accessing crucial information on committee work – the work that is being done in drafting the country’s new constitution.
There are 17 total committees in the assembly today – 6 principal ones, 7 legislative ones, and 4 special ones. The 6 principal ones have been meeting for at least 3 months, 3 days a week. After each meeting, minutes are drafted. This means that 3 (days) x 4 (weeks) x 3 (months) = at least 36 documents have been drafted per committee. 36 (per committee) x 6 = at least 216 documents that have yet to be released.
Many assembly members are extremely helpful in my search for public documents – giving me their own on many occasions. An example is the document below, which is a summary of all meetings held by the Committee on Rights and Liberties from February 13 to April 18 – given to me by an assembly member.
However, access to information should not hinge on any assembly member’s mood, character or level of kindness. These documents must be made available to all Tunisian citizens in a systemic and regular way, say, on the Constituent Assembly’s website. As of today, “Committee Activities,” only opens up to a page reading: “No news in this section.”
After some investigation, it appears that even the assembly members did not know about this lack of transparency taking place right around the corner. Most assembly members I asked, a. did not have the meeting minutes of their own commissions, let alone other commissions that they do not sit on, b. thought that the minutes were up on the website already.
As such, some measures are being taken to investigate the heart of the issue – where is this bottleneck occurring exactly? Why can’t the assembly members access the documents on a first hand basis? More importantly, where is the transparency that these elected officials have been doing lip service about for so long? Why isn’t the Tunisian citizen able to read and discuss what their elected representatives are up to, and hold them accountable?
PS: a petition has been created by Al-Bawsala – a Tunisian NGO that promotes transparency within the assembly. The petition calls for the application of the assembly’s rules of procedure that pledge making available the committee minutes to all citizens on the Constituent Assembly’s official website.