08 October, 2010
There is an interesting editorial on TCI Journal about our right to information. It is so applicable to us that I invite you to read it, changing the names Turks and Caicos to Anguilla and Mark Capes to Stanley Reid wherever they occur. This is what they wrote:
One of the most remarkable and awe-inspiring things we have come to note here at the Journal is the depth of passion present and the significant size of the normally quiet population that yearns to make the Turks and Caicos a better place.
As more and more of our citizens and residents engage in thinking through the various issues confronting our society, we are certain that the inevitable triumph of sanity over insanity is assured.
However, the civil service and the interim administration must engage the public in a better way if we are to quicken the pace of positive progress.
At the moment, seeking information from statutory bodies or government agencies is a hit and miss proposition. “Trust Us” is often the refrain from entrenched management. Getting information beyond shallow press releases is most difficult. MONTHS pass sometimes and tremendous physical and emotional energy must be consistently expended in order to access information that should be readily and easily available. When facts are so hard to access, is it any wonder that rumours and propaganda have such free reign in the TCI?
A freedom of information policy is a must and should be mandated by the interim government and not left to individual managers, board members, ministries or statutory bodies.
This task we put at the feet of Mark Capes, the current CEO of the TCI. In a positive spirit of co-operation, we challenge him to work with the public and shepherd through the bureaucracy a first iteration of a freedom of information policy that has real meaning and not one that is simply aspirational.
It would be tragic if the interim government should happen to underestimate the value of having an informed public that possess facts and that can readily put to bed the rumours and propaganda spread by those that constantly seek to destabilize daily life in the TCI.
Reassigning one person in each ministry and each statutory body to provide the public with requested information would be an invaluable aspect and a key step in the restructuring and the “re-sizing” of the civil service, and would be nothing less than a life-saving breath of fresh ocean air for civil society here in the TCI.
An abstract right to information is totally meaningless if not exercisable.