It would seem that a day does not go by without a finger being pointed at the government and this is what life is about because people should constantly be examining their government. It is they who elected the government and the government must be accountable to them.
It is for this reason that ever so often the government goes out to meet with them in their various communities to listen to them. Each year there are no less than three fan-out exercises to every part of the country and at these forums the people would ask questions, sometimes challenge decisions and make recommendations for their own benefits.
Sometimes people do not really appreciate that they cannot get everything that they need for one reason or the other. For example, there is not enough money to afford all of them the kind of farm-to-market roads that they desire; they cannot all get electricity although each year the government spends millions of dollars to expand electricity; and they cannot all get the kind of conditions that would see everyone comfortably housed.
Now there is another issue and this one has been exacerbated by statements by a visiting politician who came here for a recent Parliamentary forum. The issue is the Freedom of Information Act, something that the government feels is necessary but which is not in place at this time because there are conditions in the Act that demands that certain things be done.
For example, the Act demands that material be stored in a manner that it can be retrieved on request and that there is a penalty for the failure to have the information in place. Guyana has not yet developed the capacity to store information for long periods in many quarters.
The police are updating their database as are the Guyana Revenue Authority and the other agencies that need to refer constantly to such information, not least among them, the Georgetown Public Hospital. However, many sections of Government have not been able to guarantee information retrieval in a timely manner.
There is the situation at the Registrar of Births and Deaths where in some cases people cannot access records of their parents going back years and this is because until now storage was done in bound volumes that deteriorate with the passage of time.
Conditions like these do not allow for the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act at this time and this has been explained over and over. Yet people are now seeking to blame the government for the absence of this act. They refuse to recognize that it was only recently that the government moved to spend millions of dollars on computerization.
Amazingly, a visitor came and he pointed to the absence of the Freedom of Information Act. This visitor goes further by contending that it is an embarrassment for a country not to have this Act. His words had scarcely been uttered before people began to blame the government for the absence of the Act.
Those who now blame the government never stopped to think that the issue of Freedom of Information has been in countries long before today but strangely enough, no one ever challenged the then government to have the Act in place; they were prepared to go about their way and accept whatever was fed to them by the spokespersons.
Often, people who sought answers were told that the information was not available and they went about their way to speculate and to wonder. People who had the information leaked it to others in the society and in this manner people got some information.
It was one such leak that allowed the country to know that GT&T had given the then President Desmond Hoyte US$20,000 to travel overseas to an African country to represent the interest of that company.
In Guyana, the government affords people information at every corner. There are the weekly post-Cabinet press briefings, the answers to questions posed in Parliament, the numerous press conferences and the one-on-one interviews that government officials offer journalists.
On Monday, Prime Minister Sam Hinds told the press that at this time, although there is no Freedom of Information Act the public gets about 80 per cent of all information that is needed at this time.
There will be a Freedom of Information Act but we know that this cannot be the case at this time simply because one condition does not allow it and that condition is information retrieval. Do not blame the government.
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