The debate about the proposed amendments to the ICTA will continue to rage on as has been the pattern so far. And as it will be every time a potentially dangerous bill or project is presented. The fact that the delay for submitting feedback has been extended will change nothing to that. For, it is not a question of time or counter-proposals. The citizens’ opposition will feed on the threats to our freedoms as these are being nibbled away but it will be nurtured by the lack of trust in our institutions and lawmakers.
The real question boils down to one thing: do we trust the people legislating and those implementing the laws legislated? Do we trust those sitting in parliament today to properly debate the bills proposed in a fair and balanced way and vote or reject them based on our interests and those of the country? Do we trust the speaker to allow a proper, open debate without taking sides? Do we trust those on the government side, who were queuing up to blindly vote the Prosecution Commission bill in to really have a crisis of conscience when it comes to voting in laws that restrict our liberties? Do we trust the new generation of MPs to worry about anything other than in which world they would make that much money and have so many privileges if they did not toe the line and stayed in parliament?
More importantly perhaps, do we trust our institutions to implement the law in all impartiality? Do we trust with upholding the law those who were hauling off people to the police stations at the crack of dawn for a joke posted on social media while those really threatening our unity through explicit racist messages get away with a slap on the wrist? Do we trust institutions run by chatwas who are so attached to power that they ratted on their own party to keep that power whatever the moral cost? Or do we trust those who wasted Rs19 billion on Safe City to come and tell us in the end that when it really mattered – to us and to the justice system – they had nothing to show for it? Or perhaps we should trust the one who raised the cult of personality to a form of governance to allow institutions teeming with sycophants and docile political nominees to act independently without fear or favour? Or those who were lying to us through their teeth about the number of Indian citizens allowed on our territory when India’s entire delegation to the G7 visiting London this week has been forced to self-isolate and all face-to-face meetings with their counterparts had to take place virtually? Or perhaps the president of the Republic to stand up to the one he owes everything to?
It is clear today that the crisis we are going through as a country is a crisis of institutions. So no assurances from those who do not have our trust are likely to put us at ease or make us forget their excesses or the huge gulf between what they say and what they do.
Yes, we are still lucky to have the Judiciary, the last bastion of democracy. While that still enjoys the respect and trust of most citizens, our justice system is now seen as the sick man of our island. The amount of time it takes for some cases to be heard and a verdict reached makes it difficult to consider it as a solution to many of the problems. The continuous delaying tactics used in the electoral petitions, for example, have dealt a serious blow to the once robust institution. It now seems that the brief of some lawyer could be as little as delaying the case entrusted to them, using all the rules in the book to make a mockery of the system.
Trust being the backbone in any relationship, I fail to see how any proposal put by Government to the citizens of this country is likely to be accepted. So laws will make their way into the statue books thanks to the docility of government MPs and dictatorship of the numbers. They will, however, not have the blessing of the majority of citizens, their trust or their adherence. The angry debate taking place right now is their way of saying they have had enough and that they are opposed to the amendments lock, stock and barrel.