JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Senior Legal Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister with interim oversight responsibility for the Access to Information Unit, Shereika Hemmings-Allison, has emphasized the importance of the Access to Information (ATI) Act.
  • Mrs. Hemmings-Allison explains that it allows for the public’s participation in the national decision-making process, transparency and accountability of the Government.
  • With the passage of the Act in 2002 and its full implementation in 2004, the Government safeguarded the right of citizens and other members of the public to access official government documents.

Senior Legal Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister with interim oversight responsibility for the Access to Information Unit, Shereika Hemmings-Allison, has emphasized the importance of the Access to Information (ATI) Act.

She explains that it allows for the public’s participation in the national decision-making process, transparency and accountability of the Government.

With the passage of the Act in 2002 and its full implementation in 2004, the Government safeguarded the right of citizens and other members of the public to access official government documents.

The ATI Act therefore gives persons the legal right to see and get copies of official documents held by Government bodies.

“The Act is important because it empowers citizens to be kept in the know…to know exactly what the government is doing, and empowers citizens to access official documents, verify national decisions on matters of social and national interest and also matters that concern the finances of the country, health and environment,” Mrs. Hemmings-Allison said at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’.

She added that the Act also empowers persons to have their personal record amended in instances where the information is incorrect, misleading or outdated.

“The law  points essentially to a pioneering shift from the traditional culture of holding government information as secret,” Mrs Hemmings-Allison said, adding that the Act is applicable to all public authorities – ministries, departments and  agencies (MDAs); statutory bodies,  parish councils and government companies.

In its continued bid to highlight the Act and educate persons on its importance, the Access to Information Unit has an annual observance ‘Right to Know Week’.

The week will be observed from September 25 to October 1, with focus on the Act, its stipulations and impact.

On Tuesday, September 27, the unit will launch its National High School Essay Competition at the Press Room at the Office of the Prime Minister.

Students will be required to write on the topic: ‘The Access to Information Act has played a significant role in improving accountability and transparency in Jamaica. Discuss’.

A major highlight of the week will be a public forum on Thursday, September 29 at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

The forum will be guided by the theme: ‘Access to Information Act… Impact, Challenges, Opportunities’, and will involve the participation of representatives of government and non-governmental entities.

The Access to Information Unit is mandated to monitor the implementation and application of the Access to Information Act across all Government entities and also serves as the Secretariat for the Access to Information Appeal Tribunal.