BVI Awaits Freedom Of Information Act


By Mellica McPherson-Ganda

On 28 September more than 100 jurisdictions around the world celebrated the Right to Know Day, while the call for a Freedom of Information Act continues here in the Territory.

The Right to Know Day was formulated by Freedom of Information Organisations from around the world to “raise awareness about people’s right to access government information while promoting freedom of information as essential to both democracy and good governance”

However, days prior to the observance of ‘Right to Know Day’ the belaboured call was made  once again here in the BVI at a media breakfast that was hosted by Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith on 15 September.

Mention was made by talk-show hosts Douglas Wheatley and Courtney de Castro, who have in the past emphasised the need for the said legislation on their respective programmes. In making a more pointed call, de Castro announced:  “Like Doug I am still waiting on the Freedom of Information Act.”

The requested Freedom of Information legislation was promised by His Excellency Governor John Duncan again this year in a special territorial address on 17 March.

In making his second promise of the bill since his 2014 arrival the Queen’s Representative drew attention to the Speech from the Throne that he delivered last November, in which he announced the intention of the current government to introduce a Freedom of Information Act.

Governor Duncan announced that work on the legislation has begun and also cited that three overseas territories have already passed freedom of information legislation with a fourth territory planning to follow shortly.

The Governor explained the importance of such legislation. He said: “A Freedom of Information Act is certainly a step in the right direction and complements the role which already exists in the form of Questions in the House of Assembly, or the powers of the Public Accounts Committee to ensure the transparency of decision making.”

He however noted that obtaining information under a Freedom of Information Act can be a slow process and is by its nature reactive.