Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 03, 2018 (SKNIS): The Freedom of Information Bill, a Bill to promote maximum disclosure of information in the public interest, to guarantee the right of everyone to access to information, to provide for effective mechanisms to secure that right and for related matters, was presented for the second time in the Honourable House on Thursday, May 03. The Bill was first read in Parliament on September 15, 2015.
Mover of the Bill, Attorney General, the Honourable Vincent Byron, said that the Bill is very important as it is in the best interest of the general public.
“Mr. Speaker, the Bill before the National Assembly today is intended to usher in what is anticipated would be a new level of openness and transparency. In that vein, the enactment of Freedom of Information Law to provide for a regulatory framework for public access to certain information is important at this juncture,” said the attorney general. “I believe Mr. Speaker, that we are well in the way in achieving the government’s legislative goals and there is undoubtedly an increased emphasis on issues of good governance, transparency and accountability in recent times in our Federation.”
Attorney General Byron reiterated that the enactment, implementation and application of freedom of information legislation would usher in a new dawn of openness and greater transparency in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Mr. Speaker, it represents a paradigm shift in governance that would better ensure that citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis can more effectively enjoy the right to access information. Mr. Speaker, this right to information appears to have been given some recognition under Section 12 of our Constitution. Section 12 provides for the protection of freedom of expression. According to subsection one, except with his or her own consent a person should not be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression, including freedom to receive ideas and information without interference…”
Minister Byron said that it is anticipated that the proposed Bill would be a vital tool in promoting government’s accountability among other things.
“It should also be a very powerful tool in the fight against corruption. It should also be issuing this new sense of openness, hence, the Bill should more effectively facilitate public participation in national decision making and debates, whilst it enhances the credibility of the government,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, with the introduction of this new approach to the sharing of information, we anticipate that naturally there would be a period of transition and that there would be a number of issues and concerns relating to the actual implementation of the legislation.”
The attorney general added that the Bill, once implemented, may require parliamentarians to return to the National Assembly from time to time to make appropriate adjustments.