FOI turns five; 
law still in original form

The Cayman Islands Freedom of Information Law remains in its original form, more than five years after it took effect and nearly seven since it gained passage in the Legislative Assembly.  

Legislators were supposed to complete a review of the law within 18 after it went into effect on Jan. 5, 2009, but that took quite a bit longer than expected, which is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers.  

“The FOI Law is working very well, and I think it is fair to say that our legislation is one of the best in the region and compares well with the best around the world,” Mr. Liebaers said.  

Also, 18 months after taking effect may, in retrospect, have been a bit too soon, even if the strict letter of the law was not complied with, Mr. Liebaers said. 

“At that time, many provisions of the law still remained untested, and we are now in a much better position to evaluate what works well and what may need to be considered for amendment,” he said.  

The original form of the bill outlasted Cayman’s first Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert, who left the office in December. It is expected that a permanent commissioner will be named to the post by this summer. 

Mr. Liebaers said the office is still seeking some changes to the legislation, but those are not “fundamental in nature.” There has been no time set for any proposed amendment bill to come before the Legislative Assembly.  

Since the inception, more than 3,000 open records requests have been filed under Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law, which allows anyone in the world to request public information from Cayman’s more than 90 government agencies. The open records law does not apply to private sector entities.  

More than 140 appeals for information have been handled by the Information Commissioner’s office, with 36 of those going to formal hearings.  

Mrs. Dilbert, upon her retirement, said she was glad to see the acceptance of FOI, while gradual, become almost universal in the islands.  

“Our legislation and our operational systems meet or exceed international standards and, in my experience, are among the best worldwide,” Mrs. Dilbert said. “The majority of chief officers, heads of department and statutory boards have embraced FOI … including the proactive publishing of as much information as possible.”  

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