Commonwealth body reviewed FOI Bill – Trotman
…had written to Jagdeo, Ministers urging adoption
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) headquartered in India, reviewed the Alliance For Change (AFC)’s Freedom of Information Bill, and made suggestions that were implemented.
This was pointed out by AFC Leader, Raphael Trotman, who had tabled the Bill and was at the time responding to criticism by a senior government official that his piece of legislation was “very weak and a cut and paste job”.
Trotman is adamant that the Bill is well reviewed and researched.
A draft Freedom of Information Bill was developed by the AFC and CHRI produced a detailed analysis of the Draft FOI Bill, suggesting areas which could be reconsidered and amended.
As a result of CHRI’s analysis, the Alliance For Change updated the draft Bill and submitted a final Freedom of Information Bill to Parliament.
Maja Daruwala, the CHRI Director had written to President Bharrat Jagdeo pointing out that the Commonwealth body was one that works to promote the right to information, in particular by assisting governments to develop strong right to information legislation and to support implementation of new access laws.
“I am writing to bring your attention to the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights in Claude Reyes et al v Chile (September 19, 2006) which was released on 11 October…In its unanimous decision, the Court declared that Chile was in violation of the
right of access to state-held information provided under Article 13 of the American Convention of Human Rights, by not providing information in response to a specific request, and by not having an effective mechanism to guarantee the right of all persons to request and receive information held by government bodies.”
CHRI pointed out that the Court not only ordered the release of the information and the giving of reasons for any information not released, but it required Chile to adopt legal and other measures that ensure effective exercise of the right to information, including defining limited exemptions
and setting deadlines for providing the information.
The Court also required Chile to train public officials on the right to information and the international standards for exemptions. They also urged Jagdeo to adopt the legislation.
Daruwala, on behalf of CHRI, reportedly also wrote to all of the Government Ministers, urging them to consider prioritising the drafting and implementation of a right to information law for Guyana and, “we would like to offer our support in doing so.”
CHRI said that in recognition of the importance of transparency and openness, Guyana has committed itself to ensuring that the right to access information is fulfilled through a variety of international and regional mechanisms.
“These include its status as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as a member of the United Nations (and thereby party to a number of relevant instruments, including the Rio Declaration on the Rights of the Environment and Development) and as a member of the Organisation of American States and the Commonwealth.”
It said too that, more importantly, Article 146 of the Constitution of Guyana includes the freedom to receive and communicate ideas and information without interference as a part of the broader right to freedom of expression.
“Yet these commitments cannot be said to be practically realised without the implementation of an effective and legally enforceable mechanism that fully protects the right to access information and it is for this reason I am writing,” said Daruwala.
A senior Government official on Sunday confirmed that the Bill put forward by Trotman was reviewed, but that the government considered it to be, “very weak and a cut and paste job.”
The official said that the President does look at Freedom of Information legislation as a priority but he wants one that is relevant and appropriate for Guyana.
“Expect an enlightened Bill from the Government,” the senior government functionary promised.