The long-awaited Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation could be laid in parliament as early as this year end, according to chief government spokesman, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon. Briefing the media yesterday at his weekly post-Cabinet news conference he said it would be tabled long before the current parliamentary session ends in August.
“If I am optimistic I could envision late 2010 or early 2011. I would want to assure you that work is ongoing; we had it at Cabinet yesterday [Tuesday]. Our bill will be the Access to Information Bill, and work is ongoing at the sub-committee to produce a quality piece of legislation.”
The government has been promising the introduction of such legislation for some time now with President Bharrat Jagdeo from time to time renewing that assurance; the last one coming at a news conference less than two weeks ago.
“We are working to have in this session [of Parliament] the Freedom of Information Act passed; it will be passed in this session. That gives our citizens greater access to information in the public domain. I’ve also said that we will liberalise the radio monopoly that the state has so that people will be subjected to greater divergence of opinion,” Jagdeo had said.
In August he had said that the FOI bill and broadcast legislation, doing away with the government’s monopoly on radio, would be passed as soon as the parliamentary recess ended. The current parliamentary session restarted on October 10.
In April last year, during the Summit of Americas in Trinidad, Jagdeo told reporters that the FOI legislation would be tabled in the National Assembly within two months. Months later in October, Luncheon pledged that the FOI Bill and the long-delayed broadcast legislation were among bills that would be tabled during the last parliamentary session.
Opposition party the Alliance For Change has already tabled private broadcast and FOI bills in the National Assembly but the House was told that the government was drafting its own legislation.