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Celebrate your Right to Know

making Government more open to the people of the Cayman Islands

—The Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Expect to see a sea of blue Friday.

It’s not a weather forecast, but a gentle reminder to don blue duds in support of transparency, accountability and participation. It’s a chance to dress down in support of the fifth annual Right to Know Day in the Cayman Islands and comes on the fourth anniversary of Freedom of Information legislation in this country.

The theme for the day is ‘It’s Yours … Just Ask!’.

Friday’s dress down day culminates a week of Right to Know Week activities, which included a church service, Health Services Authority Meet and Greet, informational booths at Market at the Grounds and the Government Administration Building, which allowed civil servants and the wider public alike to indulge in the week-long activities.

On International Right to Know Day, 28 September, the Cayman Islands will join 60 other countries to celebrate the use of FOI and stress the importance of Government accountability. Information Commission Office staff will be on hand this day at the Government Administration Building to promote Right to Know Week throughout the Cayman Islands.

Freedom of Information became law in January 2009 at the urgings of the former PPM Government.

“During our campaign in the run-up to the 2005 elections, the PPM promised a government in the sunshine,” said Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin. “We promised we would change in fundamental ways the manner in which these Islands were being governed. FOI was one of the ways in which we delivered on our promise.”

Then-Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts laid the bill before the House on 4 November, 2005, as a discussion document for public consultation.

He told the House then that the idea of Freedom of Information had previously been debated in the House in 1998 when then-Education Minister Roy Bodden made a motion to support Freedom of Information and Mr. Tibbetts seconded.

“The Government of the day should not – and if I have anything to do with it in the future, will not – hold a monopoly on information. It has been used in the past, that is, information and facts, to seek political advantage. Today, this country is still paying the price for that type of action,” Mr. Tibbetts said in the House in 1998 and reiterated in 2005.

After years of debate and public consultation, FOI finally became law on 5 January, 2009.

Statistics for the initial month showed that 117 requests for information had been made between 5 and 31 January. The departments that received the most requests were Immigration and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

Fast forward to four years on and Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert reports that more than 3,000 open records requests had been made since 5 January, 2009. Only 34 of those requests made it to a full hearing.

Cayman’s FOI Law allows requests to be made free of charge and anyone in the world can request information from government entities. The law stipulates what kind of information is public and which is restricted.

Before FOI, which is now a statutory right, employees in public authorities used their discretion as to what information to disclose. FOI substituted that discretion with a set of independent, uniform and enforceable rules that must be followed in responding to an applicant’s request for records.

In essence, the FOI Law strikes a balance between the public’s legitimate right to know and the need for public authorities to keep some information confidential.

“As the Deputy Governor said the other day, FOI is alive and well,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “I am happy that my Government was able to get legislation approved that has made such a difference as far as making Government more open to the people of the Cayman Islands.”

For further information contact: Tammie Chisholm - OTP