Closed-door FOI review set

FOI Commissioner wants key role

It appears the legal review of
Cayman’s first Freedom of Information Law will not be done before the eyes of
the public.

A six-member Legislative Assembly
subcommittee is scheduled to begin meeting ‘in camera’ – privately – this month
to review Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law.

The law review is mandated in the
FOI legislation which took effect on 5 January, 2009, and calls for the legal
review 18 months following the implementation of the open records law. It is
likely that review will not be completed until next year.

A number of recommendations about
changes to the law have already been made by the FOI Commissioner’s office.
However, Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert was not named as one of the committee members.

According to Cayman Islands
Attorney General Sam Bulgin, a committee of the entire LA met on 15 September
behind closed doors and decided on the subcommittee’s formation.

Mr. Bulgin said the members of the
committee are himself as chairman, Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence, MLAs
Ellio Solomon, Ezzard Miller and Dwayne Seymour and Opposition Leader Kurt
Tibbetts. The group was expected to meet within the next week or two.  

“As chairman, I am not aware of any
plans to hold the meetings in public,” Mr. Bulgin said. “But I have not spoken
to committee members about that yet.”

The Caymanian Compass has contacted
all five other members of the FOI review subcommittee regarding their position
on the meetings being held in public. We will publish their comments if and
when the newspaper receives them.  

The attorney general said that he
would agree to publish both the minutes of the subcommittee meetings and a
report on the group’s findings when those were complete.

Premier McKeeva Bush has previously
stated that his administration is committed to continuing with the open records
law in Cayman. However, Mr. Bush has questioned whether the ability of people
to make anonymous requests for information is proper and he has also said the
legislation does bring substantial costs with it. 

Mrs. Dilbert, who is charged with
handling all appeals of FOI requests, has said that the anonymity aspect of FOI
is essential for the continued success of the law.   Given previous comments about the FOI review
by Premier Bush and Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, Mrs. Dilbert said
she expected to be ‘front and centre’ in leading the role of the committee.

Mrs. Dilbert, reached while on
leave this week, said through a spokesperson that her office didn’t wish to
unduly criticise the FOI subcommittee before it started its work.

“We believe we need to wait and see
how the subcommittee proceeds,” said Deputy Information Commissioner Jan
Liebaers.


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