Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Sandrea Falconer, said the government is unafraid of public scrutiny and is committed to the promotion and facilitation of increased access to state information.
“The government believes in the free flow of information, which is essential to a democratic society, and is not afraid to entrust the people with the information they need to foster public debate and the free exchange of ideas, information and opinion,” she stated.
Miss Falconer was addressing the 3rd Annual Access to Information National High School Essay Competition Awards Ceremony today (March 20) at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston.
She noted that the people of Jamaica have the right to be made aware of the plans and programmes that are being implemented for and on their behalf. “The people are our bosses and as good stewards of the public purse, we must ensure that they get value for money,” she declared.
She said that the Access to Information Act “is a key part of our efforts as a nation to improve transparency, accountability and increase public participation in the process of national decision-making” and to root out corruption.
“When we open up the process of governance, the trust factor will not be an issue,” she stated.
She noted that the legislation, which has bi-partisan support “is a tribute to our healthy democracy and serves to enhance the work of journalists, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens”.
She stated that the media, in ensuring transparency and openness, must strive for fairness and balance, while communicating information in a clear and simple manner.
The Minister, in the meantime, commended the students, who participated in the essay competition, noting that they are the “future stewards of our democracy”.
“You represent the present and the future of this blessed nation. Celebrate and use the right to information that you possess and encourage your friends, your parents and community members to utilize their access to information rights so that they can be empowered,” she urged them.
The Access to Information National High School Essay Competition was undertaken as part of the public education initiative of the Access to Information Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister. Targeted at students from third to sixth form, the aim was to encourage critical thinking about the Access to Information Act, 2002.
A total of 25 students submitted entries for the coveted prizes, which included trophies and cash awards, as well as certificates of merit.
First place went to Kerri-Anne Mayne of Immaculate Conception High School; Khadijah Chin of Campion College placed second; while Sanja Bonnick of Manchester High School was third.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter