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February 14, 2012

Comments

larry smith

Here is an excerpt from a recent editorial in the Cayman Compass:

"Cayman has indeed come a long way in just over three years when it comes to government transparency, mainly because of the Freedom of Information Law. At the same time, the government can do better.

However, a pervasive, long-standing culture of secrecy in government can’t be changed in just three years. It will take time before a new generation of civil servants and politicians truly embrace everything espoused by Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law.

Regardless, FOI has been a major victory for transparency here and people only have to know that other jurisdictions are now looking at Cayman’s law as a blueprint for their own Freedom of Information legislation to see how its success is viewed internationally.

Most impressively, FOI is changing the culture in Cayman’s government, where some department heads are embracing the public’s right to know."

minor

quote
The bottom line is, there was nothing wrong in substance with what Martelly had to say.
unquote
I disagree Sir

quote from Martelly
So until they’re 18 they don’t belong anywhere..This could be considered a crime. Be responsible, be human and see how to better assist these Haitians.” unquote

The bahamas is guilty of a crime for not rewarding illegal immigration with citizenship?
How about he and the haitian government are guilty of a crime for not granting citizenship to these children born to their citizens.
He himself calls them haitians in the quote, but his government would rather dump them off on the bahamas then recognize their own people.

PS I nominate xenophobia/xenophobic as the most over-used word in the bahamas. It seems impossible to say anything about the illegal immigration issue with hearing that word.

Sean Rolle

Martelly's comments weren't a problem for you because you're an FNM diehard supporter. Once the FNM is in office all is well as far as you're concerned!

larry smith

@Minor - Actually, as Ingraham noted, "These people are not stateless. They have the citizenship of their parents according to our constitution which is different from those of Haiti and the United States. People born in the Bahamas for non-Bahamians do not have the right to citizenship of the Bahamas until they have attained the age of 18. They must do so before the age of 19 years, otherwise they lose that right."

Xenophobia means an unreasonable fear of strangers. Don't you think it's unreasonable for Bahamians to employ Haitians while ceaselessly loathing their presence? There are serious issues that have to be faced and addressed - one being the assimilation of Haitian migrants into Bahamian culture. Otherwise, we are looking at a ticking time bomb.

larry smith

@Sean -What kind of critique is that? Do you actually read my articles?

Rowena Bethel

The new provision (clause 55 (4)) in the revised FOI Bill 2012 that was passed by the Senate, which essentially declares that the "grant of access to official documents" under the Official Secrets Act will apply in contravention of the FOI Bill, seems curious to say the least.

First, there is no definition in either the Official Secrets Act or the FOI Bill as to what constitutes "official documents", so I assume it refers to non-public government information.

Second, in essence the new clause 55 (4) means that the status quo will remain, even after the FOI Bill is passed into law, as regards disclosure of government information subject to the Official Secrets Act.

This naturally begs the question as to what will be the purpose of the FOI Bill if the status quo is to be preserved?

Under the Official Secrets Act a public servant subject to the Official Secrets Act can only release confidential government information to a person to whom he is authorised to release it or to a person to whom it is in the interest of the State to have such information. The issue of authorisation in these circumstances is clearly a matter for the ministry or department in which the public servant works.

Obviously, some reconciliation of the competing provisions under the Official Secrets Act and the proposed FOI Bill did not take place, because the FOI Bill 2012 effectively removes information covered by the Official Secrets Act from the ambit of the FOI Bill altogether.

This rather strange approach can be contrasted with the Irish Freedom of Information Act which clearly states that access granted under the FOI will satisfy the requirements for authorisation under the Official Secrets Act.

When the provision exempting information subject to the Official Secrets Act is taken together with all the possible avenues for the government (through ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of other public authorities and sundry Information managers) to prohibit access to information (under the various exemptions), it certainly does not appear that much will change when the FOI Bill 2012 becomes law.

The Bill should have been the subject of wide consultation (inclusive of those civil servants that will be charged with its implementation) and a white paper. A public access to government information law is an enormously important step for any country and one that, if not planned properly, will fall short of its intended purpose.

Finally, the whistleblwer provisions copied directly from the Cayman law, are, to my mind, not worth the paper they are written on. This holds true for the Cayman provision as well, if there is no supporting framework that expands upon and outlines the procedures for how whistleblowers will, in fact and practice, be protected.

The current provision does nothing more than declare that no retaliatory action should be taken against a whistleblower. Nor does it provide any indication of what will happen to persons who do take retaliatory action against a bona fide whistleblower.

In any event, it is also a curious step to include such a provision in a law dealing with providing access to the public to government information. It would seem more appropriate to include whistleblowing provisions under its own separate law, and also include such provisions in employment laws.

The FOI Bill requires far more scrutiny and adjustments to be workable in the Bahamian context.

larry smith

Thanks for your insight, Rowena.

You would think that the media would be leading the fight for this important legislation, yet all they do is publish notices of its progress.

It is most unfortunate that this law was not taken more seriously by everyone involved. It will very likely end up as a wasted opportunity, as you say.

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