Jamaica helps advance freedom of information

Attorney General, Carl Bethel.

The Bahamas will receive assistance from Jamaican officials to fully implement the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), passed under the former administration, according to Attorney General (AG) Senator Carl Bethel.

In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News on Sunday, Bethel said, further steps will be taken to implement the act beginning next week, with meetings scheduled with the Director of Access to Information in the Ministry of Labor & Social Security of Jamaica Damion Cox.

“We are advised by the Jamaican Office of the Prime Minister, that Mr. Cox was instrumental in the implementation of Jamaica’s Access to Information Act and, is a valuable source of practical information which will enable the fair and balanced implementation of the act,” Bethel said.

Bethel noted that Cox will give guidance in three meetings: the first to Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament (MPs), Senators, Parliamentary Secretaries and Permanent Secretaries; a second to senior public officials from the level of Under Secretary to First Assistant Secretary; and the third to a special meeting with civil society groups. Those meetings, according to the AG, are slated for April 24-27 this year.

“There may well need to be specific on-site training once individual information officers are identified from respective areas, and we plan to host more meetings to accommodate those persons,” he said.

Recently, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis signed an order to bring into effect the whistleblower provisions of the act.

The Attorney General said that the legislation is another commitment by the Minnis administration to improve transparency and accountability.

According to the Freedom of Information Act, 2017, the objectives are to:

  1. Reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely –
    1. governmental accountability;
    2. transparency; and
    3. public participation in national decision making,

by granting to the public a general right of access to records held by a public authority, subject to exemptions which balance that right against public interest in exemption from disclosure governmental or commercial information.

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