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News : Local Last Updated: Apr 14, 2017 - 5:25:51 PM

Groups Urge Government to Enact FOIA
By Chauntez Dillet-Wilson
Apr 11, 2017 - 7:22:21 PM

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Nassau, New Providence  – With Parliament to be prorogued on April 11th, 2017, this administration has all but lost its window to enact important legislation like the Freedom of Information Act 2017 (FOIA) ahead of elections. The coalition of 22 civil society and private industry groups which working tirelessly on this legislation urges this government to gazette and enact FOIA 2017 as soon as possible to avoid a repeat of the 2012 Act, which was never implemented due to a lack of enforcement date.

The coalition includes: Citizens for a Better Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, Nassau Institute, ReEarth, The Organization for Responsible Governance, Save the Bays, Waterkeepers Bahamas, The Press Club, Its Our Turn, Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association, Bahamas Federation of Retailers, HeadKnowles, Civil Society Bahamas, The Abaco Chamber of Commerce, Rise Bahamas, Young Marine Explorers, We The People, BREEF, Our Carmichael, The Coalition to Save Clifton, BREEF, and Citizens for Justice.

Civil society and the business community are determined that the FOIA 2017 does not become another unimplemented law. This Act is the culmination of an involved consultation process which a cross section of civil society and the business sector band together to develop over 30 recommendations to create a true, fair Freedom of Information Bill; 7 of which were ultimately incorporate in the Act. We can say confidently that our sector is heavily invested in this legislation and is not prepared to see it fall by the wayside.

Freedom of Information is a subset of freedom of speech – a fundamental right according the United Nations and human rights groups across the globe. In not having a bill entitling the people to know the facts about their government, The Bahamas is not only falling behind regional counterparts such as Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, and Cayman, but is denying the people their universal right.

The answers to questions important to everyday Bahamians lie in a robust freedom of information system. With public distrust of government institutions at an all-time high, we believe taking a step towards open governance by implementing this Act is in the best interest of all involved. As such, we implore our leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the people and the development of the nation by not allowing election season to immobilize the urgent roll-out of FOIA.

Upon enactment, our groups are determined to continue to support FOIA efforts through a public education program that will ensure that the public not only has the right to information but is knowledgeable and prepared to utilize it to bring power to the people and keep the government honest.

Good governance is crucial to ending corruption and creating broad opportunity for all, and it is dependent on the free exchange of information. We hope that the leadership will align itself on the side of the Bahamian people and continue to push FOIA through to enactment.

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