During a press conference on 28 March Hon. Smith announced that he intends to introduce a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in the House of Assembly before the end of the year, but noted that with the manner in which certain information is leaked it would appear that information is already free.
The BVI Leader made the remark in reference to the recent occurrence in the House of Assembly where a document that was described as confidential and between Premier Smith and a UK government official was made public after Third District Representative Hon. Julian Fraser announced that he found the document at a speed bump.
Two days earlier Hon. Fraser had announced that the residents of the BVI were at a disadvantage because residents in the UK would have access to the document through the Freedom of Information Act of that country.
When this was raised to Premier Smith at the press conference two days later he explained that the Freedom of Information Act would not make all documents available for public scrutiny: “People will have access to information but there is a process to get it…There is in place in larger communities a freedom of information act which provides how information is obtained because there is a process which you go to get the information you wish to have and also outlines how the information should be used,” Hon. Smith said.
The Premier said that he supports having FOI legislation, but noted that leaks that are occurring indicate that information is already passing freely. “Freedom of Information is one thing I think we should do…because, really, in my opinion, we have Freedom of Information here in the BVI. Because even if I don’t put a document out there it gets out there, so that is freedom of information.”
Hon. Smith also explained that the notion that enacting Freedom of Information legislation will make all documents public is false: “…Apart from the fact that information will be free, so to speak, there are also provisions in any Freedom of Information Act where certain types of information should be held for a varying period of time. That information has to do with national security.”