‘Official information that enhances people’s capacity to exercise their rights belongs in the public domain. This information must be accessible and understandable.”
This quote from the United Nations Development Programme highlights the fundamental principles of Right to Know Week in the Cayman Islands.
Being able to access government information has changed the way the Cayman Islands Government operates. When the FOI Law was introduced in January of this year, we all saw a shift in the balance of powers between the government and the governed, being the people of this country. People are now able to ask for records held by Government and be provided with them or detailed explanations why they cannot have access to the records.
Freedom of Information has been viewed worldwide as a fundamental human right.
Freedom of information is not a luxury; it is vital to good governance and has the power to make Government more efficient, effective and responsible.
In these times of worldwide financial crisis, governments are looking at ways to improve their efficiency and effectiveness without increasing their expenditure. Freedom of Information allows this to happen; in some ways, it ensures this happens. FOI requires Government to answer the questions asked by the people.
This will prompt us, as the service provider, to take a critical look at how we do business, which in turn will allow us to adjust, adapt and enhance our service delivery. In short, FOI will show us where our services fall short and encourage us to fix them.
The objects of the Freedom of Information Law are to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely accountability, transparency and public participation in national decision-making by granting to the public a general right of access to records held by public authorities.
These new rights afforded to you, the people, should be tempered by a need to know. FOI should not become a financial burden to our country. Frivolous and unnecessary requests should be kept to an absolute minimum; a lot of information about Government is already in the public domain and I ask you when you are using this new right to ensure you do not abuse our already strained civil service resources.
Changing the culture from secrecy to openness in our Government is not an easy task and requires a multi-pronged change strategy and a commitment to transparency at the most senior level. Thus far, Government is achieving the objectives of the FOI Law and I encourage you to do your part to help Government continue to achieve them.
The FOI Law is not only about adjusting and enhancing government business. It is also recognised as a mechanism to help prevent inappropriate behaviour in public office, to counter corruption and to allow for better national decision making.
While I know the people of Cayman may be worried about what the future holds as we stand now, I want to assure you that I am tirelessly working to ensure that I attain the best results and achieve the best outcomes for my people. In saying that, I would like to encourage everyone to participate in the Information Commissioner’s Office Right to Know Week 2009. Knowledge is power and I would like to see all my people access all the power within their reach. Learn about the FOI Law, use the FOI Law and keep using the Law to get the answers you need from Government.
We are here to be accountable to you! The United Democratic Party and this Administration are committed to you, the people and to the rights afforded to you under the Freedom of Information Law. This Law gives you access to records; Government is to be viewed as trustees of records which are held in trust for you. That is why this Law was created. We are a democratic society and as Patrick Henry once said, the liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
W. McKeeva Bush
Leader of Government Business
Minister of Financial Services, Tourism and Development