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Guyana needs “proper” Access to Information Act – Transparency activist

first_imgTrinidadian-based transparency activist, Afra Raymond, has stated that Guyana needs to have a “proper” Access to information Act, as he highlighted some of the snags in the current legislation.During a public lecture in Guyana to observe World Press Freedom Day, Raymond pointed out that while Guyana has access to the Information Act in force, there are a few striking contents of the legislation.He went on to outline that among those is the 20-year cap for the disclosure of Cabinet documents.“The documents that are submitted to Cabinet are exempted from disclosures for 20 years, in Trinidad and Tobago its 10 years. I think 20 years is way too long, it should be disclosed in a fast time scale. Something that is 20 years old is literally an old dried up historical document, and that provision needs to modernise,” he posited.Another issue the transparency activist raised is the noticeable absence of judicial review laws, which he insisted must be addressed.“The opportunity to judicially review an administrative decision doesn’t exist in Guyanese law. You don’t have a Judicial Review Act that has been implemented. That is how I made my legal challenges in Trinidad and Tobago; because a public authority receiving an application for information under the Freedom of Information Act has to respond in accordance with the law.”He noted that if they fail to respond in accordance with the law, then “you then have grounds for a judicial review but you have to have a Judicial Review Act that gives you a channel to go to the court and say, this authority did not comply with the law. And without the judicial review avenue, you don’t have much of a channel.”Guyana’s Access to Information Act allows for persons aggrieved by a decision of the Commissioner of Information to apply to the High Court for a review of that decision.Meanwhile, President of Transparency International Guyana Inc, Troy Thomas, too had echoed similar sentiments about strengthening and improving the Access to Information laws. He noted that the conversation on transparency and anti-corruption cannot be had without the proper access to information.“You can speak (about transparency and corruption) but what would be the supporting evidence about which you speak. And our Access to Information Act, TIGI has concluded recently, can be used to restrict access to information instead of facilitating access to information and that is something that needs to be addressed,” Thomas said, adding too that, “While you can collect information from individuals, you should be able to access documents but we have an access to information Act that does not facilitate that or depends on the Commissioner and what he thinks about what you would have requested.”This, according to the head of the transparency watchdog body, is not appropriate nor the standard that should obtain.The Access to Information Act was passed in the National Assembly on September 15, 2011 and was assented to by the then President on September 27, 2011. However, it was not until May 2013 that the Commissioner of Information was appointed, thereby bringing the Act into operational effect.The Act sets out a practical regime of right to information for persons to secure access to information under the control of public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government and public authorities.The Commissioner of Information is former Justice Charles Ramson Sr, who has held the position since its creation. Last year, he complained of being stifled of resources by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who is the Minister of Information.last_img

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