Editorial for 27 February: Bring transparency to Cabinet

Not all that many years ago, the people of Cayman were
relatively in the dark about government workings. Yes, laws were debated and
passed in public meetings of the Legislative Assembly. But little else about
the decisions and operations of government were known.

The first big step in transparency was taken by the People’s
Progressive Movement government when it introduced a Freedom of Information
Bill that was subsequently passed in September 2007 and implemented in January
2009. This one piece of legislation has brought much more transparency to the
government’s workings and helped hold elected officials and public servants
accountable.

As helpful as the FOI law is, in this information age in
which we live, it is not enough. There is still far too much that transpires
behind closed doors in the Cayman Islands.

It was therefore encouraging to hear current and would-be
elected officials at a recent debate at UCCI support – to varying degrees – the
earlier release of information on Cabinet meetings, which are carved out of the
FOI law. The length of time that Cabinet deliberations are unavailable to the
public is 20 years, a period that most of those at the UCCI debate seemed to
think was too long. We agree.

We believe everyone understands that with matters like
national security, there are discussions and decisions made in Cabinet that
must remain withheld from the public for a certain period of time. Most people
would also understand that the actual deliberations of Cabinet should also be
withheld for a period of time to support the concept of collective
responsibility, which requires Cabinet members to publicly support all of
Cabinet’s decisions, whether or not they privately agree with them.

However, why should the agenda of Cabinet meetings not be
made public immediately afterwards? Shouldn’t the public know at least what
their government is discussing? And why shouldn’t the public know the decisions
– or deferrals – of the agenda items discussed? We hope that the government,
now or in the future, decides to bring some sunshine to Cabinet meetings, even
if it’s limited with filters.

 

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