Editorial for August 12: Coming clean

With implementation of the Freedom
of Information Law last year, Cayman Islands residents were told a new era had
begun, one that ended the culture of secrecy in the affairs of government and
its various agencies.

To be sure, the public now has
access to a lot of information it didn’t have before, but there is one big
caveat: the person asking for the information has to know what to ask.

The truth is, there are things that
happen every day throughout government that the public would be interested in
knowing more about, if someone only knew to ask.

We can’t really fault government
for this because it’s not their job to determine every little thing the public
might be interested in.

However, if things like meeting
agendas – even Cabinet agendas – were all made public, then people might know
more of what to ask for when it comes to Freedom of Information requests. 

In addition, there are certain
things that happen that government or its agencies should realise immediately.
If it is in the public’s best interest to know about, they should come clean
immediately about such matters rather than waiting for a media or Freedom of
Information request.

For instance, a police officer was
involved in a vehicular accident last week that resulted in a serious injury of
a bicyclist. Witnesses saw the aftermath of the accident and asked Caymanian
Compass staff why nothing had been reported about the incident.  The simple answer to that question is: We
weren’t told by police it happened.

The police send out press releases
all the time about crimes and traffic accidents, but they didn’t send out any
information about this one until they were asked about it, probably because it
involved one of their own.  The incident
has led to an internal police probe, so it can’t be argued that this incident
doesn’t have an element of seriousness.

Whether or not the letter of the
law requires it, the spirit of Freedom of Information calls for openness and
transparency in most government matters. Keeping things hidden that are obviously
of public interest is not the best practice of those attributes.