Today’s Editorial March 13: FOI law extremely important

Members of the Cayman Islands media got a chance to sit down with Leader of Government Business and the Freedom of Information consultant last week and talk.

Just talk.

It was an informative and enlightening affair.

Many of us in the media have a perception that the public isn’t too sure of what all this freedom of information stuff is all about.

It’s new.

It’s change.

And while most people are intrinsically opposed to change because it is human nature, this change is good.

Basically, passage of the legislation and approval of the rules and regulations will mean that we will all be privy to loads of information from the Government and its agencies.

There will be some information that can’t be shared, such as national security issues, personnel, certain Cabinet papers, competition issues, law enforcement, and other items.

But mostly the legislation seeks to open Government and make it more transparent.

By not providing information, Government is attaching a stigma to itself of operating in secrecy even if the perception is false.

LOGB Kurt Tibbetts hit the nail on the head when he told media representatives that everyone in the Cayman Islands will have to live the legislation to see how it’s going to work.

This is new to this country and while we can rely on FOI experts from other countries for advice, they can’t tell us exactly how FOI is going to work here.

Much work still has to be done on the legislation, which can be passed in the Legislative Assembly this year.

The first step is to get good legislation drafted. Government has drafted proposed FOI legislation, but it wants to tweak that document before tabling it.

That’s why it is so important that everyone – not just the media – familiarize themselves with the proposed legislation and offer suggestions on how to make it better.

It’s easy; just go to the Government’s website at www.gov.ky and look in the top right hand corner for the blue and gold freedom of information logo. Click there and read all about it.

The website is constantly being updated with helpful information.

The district meetings with FOI consultant Tanya Karlebach have ended, but the public is still asked for input until 28 April.

This is your chance to get involved in Government; to make sure your voice is heard in the drafting of this most-historic piece of legislation.

Much more work will take place once the legislation is passed as staff is trained and the mechanisms of the new law are put in place.

If all goes right, it is possible that we could see this legislation become law sometime next year.

It is hoped that eventually there won’t be the perception of a Government veiled in secrecy, but a reality of a Government open to everyone.

But your input is needed to make this work. Government shouldn’t have to do it alone.

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