KINGSTON — The top prize winners in the Access to Information (ATI) National Essay Competition were presented with their awards, at a ceremony at the offices of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) in Kingston on Tuesday (June 28).
First prize went to Malike Kellier, past student of Cornwall College, Montego Bay. Second was Claudia Deonnie Landley of Holy Childhood High School, Kingston. Third was Kerry-Ann Battick, past student of the St. Andrew High School for Girls, Kingston.
Malike is now a student at the Norman Manley Law School, while Kerry-Ann is enrolled in the Social Sciences Department at the University of the West Indies (UWI). They emerged winners from among 30 competitors and won$10,000, $7,000 and $5,000, respectively.
The competition, which is in its second staging, invites high school students in third to sixth forms to write on the topic: ‘The right to access official government documents granted to members of the public by the Access to Information Act (2002) strengthens our democratic system of Government: Discuss’.
Chairperson of the ATI Advisory Stakeholders Committee, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, said access to information empowers individuals to make informed decisions which can benefit themselves and the country.
“You can’t hope to make change…to move forward…to make sensible choices and decisions, until you know what you are talking about, until you have the access to the information…to chart a way forward,” she said.
Dr. Gomes said the Act is a significant tool “not just for information for information sake”, but using information to understand each other better and solve problems.
She said Jamaica deserves to be the place of choice to live, do business, raise a family and grow, particularly if its citizens are armed with the necessary information.
Dr. Gomes commended the winners for their outstanding essays, and encouraged them to keep themselves informed.
Director of the Access to Information Unit, Damian Cox, said the ATI Act is a critical tool in assisting persons.
Malike Kellier said he has benefitted immensely from entering the competition, adding that the documents have assisted him with information for his studies.
The competition was organised by the Access to Information Unit, in collaboration with the ATI Advisory Stakeholders Committee.
The ATI Act gives Jamaicans the right to access Government documents. It applies to all public authorities, including ministries, government departments and agencies, statutory bodies, Parish Councils and Government owned companies.
Information related to defence, international relations, law enforcement, national economy, legal privilege, personal privacy, business affairs and cabinet documents are exempt from the Act.
By CHRIS PATTERSON, JIS Reporter