Monday, December 29, 2008

Disappointed it was not passed this year, optimistic for new year - Trotman

Kaieteur News news item, Saturday 27 December 2008

Disappointed it was not passed this year, optimistic for new year - Trotman
December 27, 2008 | By knews |
Filed Under News

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Raphael Trotman, says that he is
disappointed that the Government did not see it fit to support the Freedom
of Information legislation this year. He says that he is, nevertheless,
optimistic that this will change in the new year.
He noted that his disappointment was further fuelled by the fact that the
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association had held a workshop for
Parliamentarians and media operatives, where Freedom of Information (FOI)
was extensively discussed.
He conceded that legislation such as the FOI will take time, but pointed out
that there was a resounding call by Guyanese, who were now beginning to
understand the importance of such a piece of legislation, as well as the
calls from the international organisations.
According to Trotman, FOI is important for good governance and transparency
in Guyana.
Recently, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds had stated that FOI, which is
currently on hold by its mover Trotman, is being advanced, and as fast as
possible, aimed at being implemented; but Trotman had informed this
newspaper that he was unaware of any such initiatives on the part of the
Former Minister of Information, Moses Nagamootoo, had also told this
newspaper that he was a staunch advocate of FOI legislation, and restated
his position at the recently held Commonwealth Forum for Parliamentarians
and media personnel on FOI.
At that forum, he and the Prime Minister had said that FOI was inevitable
for Guyana.
Nagamootoo added that, ever since the Commonwealth Forum that was held at
the Grand Coastal Inn, he has not been aware of any discussion pertaining to
FOI legislation.
According to Nagamootoo, he was also not aware of any alternative of counter
to Trotman's proposed legislation.
He did say that, being that he was the former journalist as well as a former
Minister of Information, such discussions would have been held with him.
The People's National Congress Reform has already voiced its support for the
legislation; and yesterday, leader of Vision Guyana, Peter Ramsaroop, did
In an invited comment, Ramsaroop said: "This will allow us to ensure
accountability and transparency...Critical information such as procurements
and contracts should be visible to the public."
He said that his party actively supports the AFC cause in getting the
legislation passed in the National Assembly. "There should be no objection
by the Administration if they believe everything is being done above board."
During a mid-year press briefing, General Secretary of the PPP, Donald
Ramotar, had disclosed that at that time the party "has never consulted
internally on whether it would support Freedom of Information legislation."
Ramotar did concede that the PPP may have to support FOI some time in
future, and that it is likely that this was what the Prime Minister was
referring to.
The position adopted by Ramotar came on the heels of public statements by
both Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, in
which they conceded that the enactment of the legislation was inevitable.
Despite acknowledging its inevitability, the Prime Minister had said that
Guyana was already experiencing 80 per cent of Freedom of Information, in
that the Government already makes information available in a proactive
manner. The Prime Minister made this statement at a forum to discuss the
mining situation.
The essence of the Freedom of Information Act, according to the Commonwealth
Parliamentary Association (CPA), is the empowerment of the populace to
request any piece of information (with few exceptions, such as medical
records) held by a public authority. One such utilisation of the Act was
cited by a renowned Trinidadian journalist, Sasha Mohammad, at the CPA
According to Mohammad, one such incident was when there was a request that
the salaries and monies paid to the director of a bank be disclosed.
The Bill proposed by Trotman is based on the Trinidad model, which has been
criticised by the Government for having too many flaws.

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