Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, said he wants to see the Official Secrets Act removed from the law books in another 18 months, noting that such legislation has no place in an independent country.
“This has no place and if next year we’re going to be celebrating 50 years of independence, then I would like to say bye-bye to this before we celebrate that 50,” he said.
He was contributing to debate on the Protected Disclosures Act on January 25 in the House of Representatives. The debate was suspended to revisit concerns expressed by Opposition Members about the proposed law that would, among other things, protect whistleblowers.
Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Rev. Ronald Thwaites noted that the legislation will be ineffective if the Official Secrets Act continues to exist. “If this Act remains in place, the provisions of this legislation will run entirely counter to (the Protected Disclosure Act). We are merely placing people in a dilemma and the entire system open to disrepute,” Rev. Thwaites said.
Member of Parliament for East Kingston and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell also noted that the Secrets Act has outlived its purpose. “It is time for us to abolish the Official Secrets Act,” he said.
The Prime Minister, while expressing agreement, said that the “notion of simply just dispensing with it and then we move on is something that we need to be cautious about. There is going to have to be a framework dealing with confidentiality within the public service.” he added.
Member of Parliament for North West St. Catherine, Robert Pickersgill, argued that the Bill was not “implementable in its present form.”
“One of the questions I would like to ask is where has this been operated and what is the success rate and was this taken from laws in other countries? I haven’t read it thoroughly but what I see here, this cannot go anywhere,” he said.
The Official Secrets Act of 1911 prohibits public servants from revealing certain information, which would affect areas such as national security.
The whistle-blower legislation will protect individuals, who blow the cover on wrongdoing in organisations. It is intended to cover all forms of misconduct that can be reported within an organisation and will address incidents of mismanagement that has passed or is imminent.