Jamaica is proud to once again join the global community in the observance of ‘International Right to Know Day’. We do so, mindful of the considerable progress that has been made both locally and internationally in advancing openness and the public’s right to know as essential ingredients of our democracy and good governance process.
At the local level, the passage of the Access to Information Act (2002) not only created the environment for more open and accessible government information but underscored Government’s commitment to foster and facilitate greater transparency, accountability and increased public participation in national decision-making.
The public’s right to information is increasingly being exercised. More and more requests for information are being received by government entities. The number of requests to public authorities monitored by the Access to Information Unit during the first four years of full implementation of the Act averaged 460. That number has jumped to an average of 960 during the last three years, 2009-2012. The majority of requests for information have been favourably responded to with full or partial access being granted. Less than one per cent of applications for information has been refused.
The Government, in fulfilling its commitment to the public’s right to know, will continue to ensure that an effective and strong access to information regime exists including strengthening proactive disclosure. This is vital in ensuring that public bodies and public officials are held accountable for actions and decisions made on behalf of the people.
As part of this process, a comprehensive Government Communications Policy which is responsive to the diverse information needs of the public, supports greater access to information and utilizes the best available technology and social media is being finalized.
The dialogue between the people and their government must be continuous, open, inclusive and interactive and we will do all these things while cognizant of the local, regional and international developments and best practices regarding Open Government and Open Data Initiatives.
I call on all stakeholders – civil society groups, public sector employees, elected officials, private sector entities, the media and members of the public to use this ‘International Right to Know Day’ to meaningfully reflect on the important rights guaranteed by the Access to Information Act and how we can all play our part in strengthening our proud democratic traditions which have made us a strong beacon of freedom and democracy in this hemisphere.
We must remain committed to the highest of levels of probity, transparency, accountability and public participation.
In proud observance of ‘International Right to Know Day 2013’, let me assure Jamaicans of this Administration’s continued and strong support in protecting, strengthening and advancing the public’s right to access information.
I encourage everyone to use their ‘right to know’ to get the information necessary to actively and meaningfully participate in the democratic process and the building of a better Jamaica.