0

Freedom Of Information Delays ‘Inexcusable’

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

AN international expert yesterday said the delays in the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act were “inexcusable”.

Freedom of Information (FOI) advocate and human rights lawyer Toby Mendel told The Tribune that there was “simply no reason” for the government to stall the process given that they already had a draft document.

He said that while the act passed by the previous government was undesirable, any process to revamp it should have taken less than one year.

“There is simply no reason for the government to be further delaying,” he said when contacted by The Tribune, “they have a draft. We know what the weaknesses are; it’s easy enough to fix them. There are lots and lots of examples around, other countries they can look to. What I would really put to the government is ‘what is your excuse?’ There really is none.”

He added: “If they need to spend a month or two months fixing the problems with this bill because it’s not good enough and we don’t want that one passed, that doesn’t take a long time. It certainly doesn’t take two years or one year.”

Mr Mendel is the executive director and founder of Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), a Canadian-based human rights non-governmental organisation.

He has more than 15 years of experience specialising in freedom of expression and the right to information, and has provided expertise on these rights to prominent groups like the World Bank and the United Nations.

In a critical review of the act passed in 2012, Mr Mendel said the legislation contained provisions that were “inherently offensive” to the public’s right to know, and gave it a score of 59 per cent in a rating of the law against international best practices. He took issue with the information minister’s ability to provide “absolute” exceptions to information disclosure upon request, and pointed to the wide range of public agencies that were excluded from accountability, such as law enforcement agencies, the Bahamas Investment Authority, the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, and the National Economic Council.

The review was published on the website Digital Disclosure in January.

Yesterday, Mr Mendel said: “Every single one of the weaknesses in their draft has good fixes in lots of other countries.

“It’s about making information available, but also about making it available in proper formal ways.”

He added: “Having a FOIA law will solidify the democratic relationship with information, especially in small places like The Bahamas where rumours can flourish and solid information would do a lot.”

In March, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said that there was “no date in mind” for the revised version of the Freedom of Information bill to be presented to Cabinet.

Mr Fitzgerald, the minister responsible for the legislation, was asked when it would be brought to Cabinet for review. While he could not specifically say when this would happen, he told The Tribune that once all details surrounding the bill have been finalised, Cabinet would discuss the “improved version”.

Last September, Mr Fitzgerald said a revised version of the FOIA would not be presented to Parliament before Spring 2016.

Controversy surrounding the leaked auditor general’s report on the Urban Renewal programme, and revelations that the government withheld an independent report into the 2012 Rubis fuel spill in the Marathon community for more than a year, have renewed calls for the immediate passage of the FOIA.

Yesterday, Save The Bays chairman Fred Smith said: “We cannot afford another month, much less another year of this. We need a FOIA right now. It is by far the single most important legislative item on Parliament’s agenda. The PLP made it a top campaign promise, but since gaining office they have kicked the can repeatedly down the road.

“With the shocking revelations of the last few weeks, we now begin to appreciate why,” Mr Smith said.

Comments

GrassRoot 4 years, 10 months ago

yep, reality is that unless Pindling were to step out of his coffin and tell PGC to do it, it wont happen.

0

Hogfish 4 years, 10 months ago

or maybe they need new shredders!

plenny information probably still around from when SLOP and Carlos was hanging out on norman's cay.

Yellow and reds both scared from what could be exposed.

We een never going to see a FOIA. ferrgedaboutiiit!

2

TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

It could be easily dealt with by saying only information from Jan 1st 2015 and going forward is available. End of story. Then that could amended backward in time later on in the future.

But info could start to flow immediately about what is happening now and the last 4 months.

0

GrassRoot 4 years, 10 months ago

you mean the information from 1st June 2017 going forward, ey?

0

Tommy77 4 years, 10 months ago

so truehttp://s04.flagcounter.com/mini/kfoW/..." style="display:none" />http://s05.flagcounter.com/mini/WUu/b..." style="display:none" />

0

ED 4 years, 10 months ago

We need to DEMAND that the next party we vote in gives us a working FOIA within the first year in office! Let us demand the government that we deserve, one with integrity and loyalty to country.

These crooks we have now are the biggest crooks yet! They are disgusting in the way they are governing our Bahamas! I don't know how they can stand in Parliament and not hang their heads in shame. The supporters of this government particularly... my Goodness...how can you be so blind to not see the corruption, the damage that is being done. These clowns are the worst choice to move our country forward and never could I have imagined it would be this bad.

They don't even like their own people, the love of money and power is carried in their blood and they only care about themselves and their selected few that help them carry out their agenda. We must move away from this party loyalty and find loyalty to country. Our children deserve a better Bahamas.

1

TheMadHatter 4 years, 10 months ago

Demand by not using ATM machines, not going into banks, not buying gas, not going into gas stations EVERY TUESDAY.

TAKE ACTION TUESDAYS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0

Sickened 4 years, 10 months ago

We need to change the ballot so that each voter is required to write their vote instead of placing an 'X'. For example... "I vote PLP". As the vast majority of people who support the PLP are not capable of reading nor writing, this will ensure that the 'better' educated among us get to choose who should lead the country. It is much easier to dumb down a nation (thanks PLP) than to educate it. Once we have an educated nation ('C' average or better) then we can go back to the 'X'.

1

GrassRoot 4 years, 10 months ago

I would start a party called "Free Beer" then.

0

Sickened 4 years, 10 months ago

I like it! Similar to the PLP's "Cash in T-Shirts".

0

asiseeit 4 years, 10 months ago

The only reason they have not produced a FOIA is they are crooked as the letter Z. When has any government done something that was not in THEIR best interest. These kleptocrates are working for them and theirs NOT the Bahamian people. A corrupt government will never give us FOIA, and as far as corrupt goes these set steal the show.

0

duppyVAT 4 years, 10 months ago

The reality is that no matter what the citizens demand............. politicians will cover their own asses. The political culture bred since 1964 in The Bahamas is one of collusion and cronyism ................ unfortunately

0

GrassRoot 4 years, 10 months ago

sure. of course. their asses are always covered as they never leave their chairs. so nothing to worry about. PGC needs to die before he leaves politics. He does not know anything else. no one would hire him with his skills set, not even a car wash or a supermarket to mop the floors.

0

SP 4 years, 10 months ago

“simply no reason” for the government to stall the process given that they already had a draft document".

WRONG.......Recent revelations with corruption in BEC, BAMSI and Rubis.....Is plenty reason enough for the government to stall the process and that's just some of the questionable antics we know little tidbits about that happened this year alone.

Imagine the mountain of scandals, corruption and GOD only knows how many other skeletons the PLP and FNM have accumulated over 40 years!

Bahamas will not, and cannot, have a Freedom Of Information Act because too many people in high place WILL GO TO JAIL!

Compare what's now unfolding in Panama and you will agree It's not to hard to imagine whats happening in Bahamas!

http://rijock.blogspot.com/2015/04/su...">http://rijock.blogspot.com/2015/04/su...

Panama also doesn't have an FOIA ..... Mirrors the Bahamas to a "T"!

0

TalRussell 4 years, 10 months ago

What is more currently "inexcusable" is despite Comrade Paul Major promising a full audit on Carnival "Freeport's" 2015 weekend would be made public - within (7) days of weekend before last's Freeport event - no damn audit has been released - yet the media, including The Tribune, says not a damn word about his missed deadline? Why not? Only thing saving this PLP cabinet, is with every new scandal, it does cover up old ones.

1

BahamaPundit 4 years, 10 months ago

Currently, 93 countries have freedom of information laws. With this in mind, FOI legislation has become a definitive criteria for classifying a country as democratic. Without FOI leglislation, the Bahamas is falling short of global best practice and is precariously close to becoming defined as a non democratic regime.

0

birdiestrachan 4 years, 10 months ago

It is to bad that during the five years the FNM Government was in power there was no out cry for the freedom of information bill, Now it has become so urgent . ,

0

asiseeit 4 years, 10 months ago

But there was a cry for a FOIA during the FNM's term, they gave us a watered down version that they did not enact, but they did SOMETHING. That is more than this bunch has done. A FOIA is in the best interest of the entire nation, maybe not the political party's, but even you should see the benefit of The Bahamas having one. But then again I think you are a PLP crony so it may not be in your best interest.

0

spoitier 4 years, 10 months ago

He is wrong in saying there is no reason for the government to stall on the FOI act, the correct statement is there is no good reason for the government to be stalling on this act. Both party has a lot of dirt to hide and don't want the Bahamian people to know what is really going on.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 10 months ago

Brave Davis handed the Speaker of the House a legal opinion from the Attorney-General (Allyson Mayard-Gibson) advising that the Christie-led PLP government has the right not to self-incriminate itself by passing a Freedom of Information Act.

0

Reality_Check 4 years, 10 months ago

LOL. In other words, Maynard-Gibson has told Christie and his merry bandits that they have the right to 'plead the 5th' by not addressing the need for a Freedom Of Information Act.

0

SP 4 years, 10 months ago

.................... Are Perry Christie, Hubert Ingraham & Crew Dem Next? .............................

http://panampost.com/elisa-vasquez/20...">http://panampost.com/elisa-vasquez/20...

Popcorn and special brew waiting to be consumed when our crew of pirates time comes!

0

asiseeit 4 years, 10 months ago

The fact that this government sat on the RUBIS report for a year and blatantly put the health and well being of Bahamian people in jeopardy tells the whole tale. These nit wits do not have the best interest of the people at heart. How can anyone trust such a government. If there was a proper FOIA in place this information would have been readily available and people could have taken action a year ago. The fact is, we have a "none of your business" government that is working for itself and NOT the people. "Looking out for the poor man", I call BULLSHIT on that 100%, they are looking out for themselves!

0

SP 4 years, 10 months ago

....................................... Free Hiding Lessons 101 For Pirates ..........................................

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/02/02...">http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/02/02...

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 10 months ago

The corrupt lot we have now will eventually try to flee to other jurisdictions when the heat gets turned up on them with the help of international agencies that also assist in ferreting out where they have stashed their ill-gotten loot.

0

Sign in to comment