The Barbados Government of Prime Minister David Thompson yesterday released a draft of their proposed Freedom of Information Act by placing the same in PDF format on the Barbados Government Portal (above).
Here are the first two, and last, paragraphs from the first page…
Barbados Government FOI Draft - First Page
And where have we read those words before? Oh yes, Wikipedia!
Now That We Have Your Attention…
Last January during the last few days of the election, then Opposition Leader David Thompson presented his Integrity Initiatives to the voters, contained in three documents…
1/ “The Ministerial Code – A Proposal”
2/ “A Model Freedom Of Information Law”
3/ “Principles Underlying The Legal Framework For Integrity In Public Life In Barbados”
Barbados Free Press then revealed that the Freedom of Information proposal had been copied verbatim from the World Bank website only a few days beforehand, and that the other two documents had also been largely copied from online sources.
While we questioned the sincerity of Thompson’s last minute conversion to the Church of Integrity, about the copy and paste we said…
“There is nothing wrong with that, my friends. So many countries have implemented Freedom of Information (FoI) and Integrity Laws that much of the standard wordings and concepts have been tested and revised over the years and had all the legal bugs worked out. That’s a good reason for starting with the World Bank version of an FoI – but that is only a start. Presumably a DLP government would carefully consider any changes that should be made to tailor the document for Barbados.”
A Long Road To Get Here – A Longer Road To Come
After David Thompson presented his last-minute quick cut and paste from the internet, promising to implement the Ministerial Code immediately and the other bits within 100 days, the DLP was elected and it was now Prime Minister David Thompson. The promise of a Ministerial Code was tossed aside when his Cabinet balked, and the only time he dealt with conflicts of interest in the first 100 days was, unfortunately, to borrow a business jet owned by a government contractor!
So here we are almost ten months later presented with a draft Freedom of Information Act and – FINALLY – a schedule of public meetings and contact information so citizens can make their views known to the invisible committee that cut and pasted this legislation together.
The “Consultation” Process Finally Revealed – Last Minute, Quick And Dirty
The government just released the draft by posting it on the internet on the 9th. I haven’t seen anything in the papers – and the promised copies to be placed in the post office weren’t there today and probably won’t be tomorrow. There was no press release.
… But the town hall meetings start in five days!
This process could have been revealed months ago. The town hall meetings could have been scheduled months ago. We could have had an ongoing debate in the public forum for the last three months… but nope, the government intends to have all public input wrapped up in three weeks.
Nothing for nine months – no discussion, no website, no contact information for the secret committee – and then, WHAM! The public has five days to obtain, digest, research and comment upon the draft.
It looks suspiciously like the government wants to SAY they had public input, without actually providing citizens with the time, resources or the knowledge to seriously discuss the issues.
Where Are The Holes?
Let us get one thing straight about the DLP Thompson government and integrity legislation: we don’t trust them because so far we have had to drag them kicking and screaming every step of the way. But ok, this is the schedule that has been thrown at us and it is what we must work with.
The danger is this: it is highly likely that the government has carefully crafted the Freedom of Information to leave holes the size of transport trucks. Our job is to find those holes and reveal them to the public before the process goes too far.
In the next few weeks, we will discuss the issues and compare the Barbados draft with FOI legislation in other countries. This draft legislation is only the first step in a process that should build a new legal and cultural foundation to address the corruption that has become endemic in our government.
Please join in the discussion. Our children are depending upon us.
Contact & Public Meeting Information (From the Barbados Government)
The Bill can be accessed online at http://www.gov.bb. (Download PDF here)
Persons providing electronic feedback should do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of the Bill are also being placed at Post Offices islandwide.
Responses to the Bill, whether electronic or hard copy, should be forwarded no later than Friday, 31st October 2008 to:
(ii) Permanent Secretary (Special Assignments)
Prime Minister’s Office Government Headquarters Bay Street St. Michael
(iii) Fax Number: 228-8234
The following Town Hall Meetings are also being held in order to provide additional opportunities for persons to provide feedback and inputs.
Wednesday, 15th October 2008 The Combermere School, Waterford, St. Michael
Wednesday, 22nd October 2008 The Alexandra School, Queen Street, St. Peter
Wednesday, 29th October 2008 The Deighton Griffith School, Kingsland, Christ Church
Wednesday, 5th November 2008 The Princess Margaret School, Six Roads, St. Philip
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