Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, says it is of utmost importance that the Government strives to be fair and open, to regain the trust of the Jamaican people.
“We are trying to be open, because we think it is important. We believe that for too long, the level of trust between the Government and the people has been eroded and we have to try, in a very serious way, to restore some amount of trust,” she said.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of the Jamaicans for Justice project: ‘Strengthening Information Access and Analysis for Improved Accountability’, at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, on March 21.
Senator Falconer said it is in a bid to be transparent that the weekly Jamaica House press briefing, which normally focuses on Cabinet matters, has been expanded to include other issues, “that are of interest and that are newsworthy and are current."
“We not only bring Ministers to the briefings, but we bring civil servants where possible, so the media can ask them any question about any kind of operation in their Ministry,” she said.
Senator Falconer further noted that the Government values the openness, transparency and accountability that will foster good democracy in the country and remains deeply committed to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention against Corruption and other international conventions, aimed at protecting human rights and the promotion of good governance.
The Minister argued that the government can be more efficient, effective, accountable and open if steps are taken to promote increased access to information and pro-active disclosure of information about government activities and operations.
“We are committed to strengthening our Access to Information (ATI) Act and the procedures and practices that enhance compliance and will ensure that the letter and spirit of the law are upheld,” she added.
Senator Falconer lauded the JFJ project which, she said, “will strengthen the capacity of Jamaica’s civil society to promote, protect and advocate for human rights by documenting problems, lobbying for improvements and increasing the Government of Jamaica’s accountability to the people, who are our bosses."
Counsellor and Head, Development Co-operation, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Marie Legault, also welcomed the initiative that will enhance the JFJ's databases and information processing systems.
“These new systems will allow the organisation to do more and to do it more effectively, especially in terms of monitoring, analysing and reporting. This is particularly important for advocacy and monitoring efforts,” she said.
Executive Director of JFJ, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, said the specific objectives of the project are: to improve the documentation of deficiencies in the operations of the justice system, as it relates to human rights breaches; to better monitor ATI Act requests; and to improve assistance to persons using the ATI help desk.
A non-profit, non-partisan, non-violent citizens’ rights organisation, the JFJ has been documenting human rights abuses since its inception in 1999 and has been using the data to write reports and take legal cases to domestic and international authorities to agitate for change.
The project is being funded by CIDA.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter