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BAHAMAS: Remarks by Prime Minister Minnis at Opening of FOIA Workshop

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#Bahamas, April 25, 2018 – Nassau

  • Cabinet Colleagues
  • Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly
  • Madam President and Senators
  • Secretary to the Cabinet
  • Commissioner of Police
  • Commodore of Defence Force
  • Senior Public Officials

 

Good morning:

I thank the Government of Jamaica for approving our request for Mr. Damian Cox, Chief Technical Officer in Office of the Prime Minister, to conduct workshops on the Freedom of Information Act, 2017, as we seek to fully implement the Act.

Mr. Cox: Welcome to the Bahamas.

Mr. Cox was involved in the implementation of Jamaica’s Access to Information Act, which is equivalent to our Freedom of Information Act.

We are pleased to have him with us to discuss the experience of Jamaica in implementing the Freedom of Information Act here in the Bahamas.

I recently signed the Appointed Day Notice, which brought into effect the whistleblower provision under section 47 of the Act.

The Freedom of Information Act will be brought into effect in phases, in order to ensure that all the preparatory work, and training, that is necessary to fully implement the regime is in place.

This will better ensure the effectiveness of the regime.

Freedom of information or the right to access information is considered an essential component of a modern democracy.

The Model Inter-American Law on Access to Public Information states in its preamble that:

“- the Inter-American Court of Human Rights … formally recognized the right of access to information as part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression;

– that access to information is a fundamental human right and an essential condition for all democratic societies; and

– that the right of access to information is based on the principle of maximum disclosure.”

The Act is intended to ensure general public access to government information.

There are a number of safeguards for the protection of an individual’s sensitive personal data.

The Act ensures the protection of national security matters, legal privilege and certain government communications.

With the exception of these carve outs or exemptions, the Act provides the public wide access to records.

It is crucial to take note of the objects of the Freedom of Information Act, 2017, which are outlined in section four.

The objects of the Act are to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely:

(a)       governmental accountability;

(b)       transparency; and

(c)       public participation in national decision making, by granting to the public a general right of access to records held by a public authority.

Access to records will be subject to exemptions which balance the right of access, and non-disclosure of governmental or commercial information in the public interest.

To properly implement the freedom of information regime, each public authority to which the Act relates, must have information managers to facilitate the requests for records and the granting of access to records.

These information managers will be required to undergo special training.

Each public authority, in consultation with the Information Commissioner, must ensure that training is provided for its officials regarding the right to information, and the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act, as provided in section 51.

The Act also provides for the appointment of an individual, whose independence and sterling character, are crucial to the working of this regime.

This person is the Information Commissioner, who pursuant to section 30 of the Act, shall be appointed by the Governor-General upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

It is crucial to note that the Information Commissioner will have the overall responsibility for the freedom of information regime.

The Commissioner will be required to monitor public authorities to ensure that they are complying with the Act.

The Information Commissioner will establish a Freedom of Information Unit with its own staff, which will include one or more Deputy Information Commissioners, and Assistant Information Commissioners.

The Information Commissioner will enjoy independence, and autonomy, in operating and administering the Freedom of Information Unit.

In order to ensure the Information Commissioner’s independence, the Act provides that the Commissioner will be a corporation sole and that he or she must—

(a) be a fit and proper person appropriately qualified for appointment;

(b)   be independent, impartial and accountable; and

(c)  have demonstrable knowledge in access to information … or public and corporate governance.

If an individual, group or entity is not satisfied with a decision of a public authority, the Act provides for various levels of appeal up to the Supreme Court. Does this mean: is not satisfied with the Information Commissioner and/or a government agency?

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased that we are beginning the full training and implementation phase of the Freedom of Information regime.

We look forward to meaningful and productive workshops, with the public sector and civil society groups over the next several days.

Thank you for your kind attention.  Good morning.

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Bahamas News

Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance.  The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections.  However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.

68,000 STAYED AWAY

While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.

However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.

PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER

This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.

Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

It could also be voter apathy.

BEST IN SHOW

Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.

North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.

VERY LOW SHOW

The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and   Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).

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BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.

The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.

“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.

“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”

Among the new Ministers sworn-in on Monday were:

  • Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
  • Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
  • Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
  • Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
  • Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
  • Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
  • Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
  • Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
  • Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.

“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.

Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.

“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.

“We are here to meet them head on.”

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Bahamas News

Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis pledges to govern in the interests of all Bahamians

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#TheBahamas, September 19, 2021 – During his ceremonial swearing-in today as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister, Hon. Philip Davis pledged to govern in the interests of all Bahamians and to consult widely with the Bahamian people.

The best way to make progress as a nation is to bring people together, said Prime Minister Davis, who was presented with his instruments of Office in ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Centre, on Saturday 18 September 2021.

Prime Minister Davis was officially sworn in as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on Friday 17 September 2021 at the Office of the Governor General.

“We will uphold the constitution and the rule of law, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly, so that it’s not one rule for one set of people, and another for another set of people,” said the Prime Minister.

“There is much work to be done; but I know that by working together we can succeed and build the kind of prosperous, independent Bahamas that our founding fathers dreamed for us.”

Prime Minister Davis said that while there are big challenges ahead for The Bahamas, his team has the right vision and policies to take the country forward.

The Prime Minister said the new administration is coming into office at a time when the Bahamian people are hurting as never before.

The country faces many crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economy in decline and deeply concerning challenges in education, said Prime Minister Davis.

If everyone works together towards a common purpose, in the common interest and for the common good, great things are possible for The Bahamas and its people, said the Prime Minister.

But no government can do great things on its own, Prime Minister Davis added.

“I am sure that my government can only succeed if we partner with the Bahamian people,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are going to listen, we are going to consult widely and we are going to bring people together.”

_
18 September 2021
Office of the Prime Minister
Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Contact: opmcommunications@bahamas.gov.bs
Website: opm.gov.bs

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