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NIA: Withdraw Retrograde Proposal to Bar Disclosure of Cabinet Documents for Seventy Years

In the absence of compelling reasons and an unambiguous explanation related to Jamaica’s specific circumstances, NIA calls on the Government to immediately withdraw the proposal to hide Cabinet documents from the Jamaican people for an additional fifty years beyond the current twenty now in existing law.  Such a proposal is thoroughly retrograde and completely unacceptable in the context of:

  • Jamaica’s Constitution in which the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom guarantees to every Jamaican “the right to seek, receive, distribute or disseminate information”.
  • Jamaica’s Access to Information Act which correctly stipulates “transparency” as a “fundamental principle underlying Jamaica’s system of constitutional democracy”.
  • Provisions in democracies such as Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, St. Lucia, South Africa, Australia, Canada, the United States and others, none of which appear to sequester Cabinet documents from their respective publics for anywhere near seventy years.
  • Jamaica’s accession, under successive political administrations to the Inter American Convention Against Corruption (1997), the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (2005), and most recently The OAS’s LIMA Commitment “Democratic Governance Against Corruption” (April 2018), each of which pledges Jamaica along with other signatory states to enhance transparency and strengthen public access to information.
  • The commendable pledge of the Jamaica Labour Party in its 2016 Manifesto to provide for “greater transparency” in governance.

 

Moreover, such a retrograde proposal, were it to be accepted by the Parliament, risks fuelling further public “distrust of politicians” an indicator in which Jamaica ranks (in the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018) number 86 of 137 countries and a worsening of our rank from 55 of 137 states in terms of “transparency of government policy making”.  At the minimum, should the government be ill advised to pursue this backward step, the proposal should be committed for consideration by a Joint Select Committee of the Parliament to which the public should be invited to make submissions.  NIA believes that this matter is of such importance that all Jamaicans, of whatever political persuasion, and in whatever civic organisation (whether the church, private sector, service clubs, media associations, citizens groups, etc.) should speak out on this matter and call for the withdrawal of this retrograde proposal.

 

Professor Trevor Munroe, CD, DPhil (Oxon)

Executive Director

National Integrity Action

October 2, 2019