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Save the Bays Applauds Ryan Pinder For Freedom Of Information Push

A fast-growing environmental group is applauding Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder for supporting legislation that would give Bahamians access to key government information.

Save the Bays, which is committed to preserving, protecting and restoring The Bahamas’ marine environment, has been pushing for the government to enact the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The group has secured nearly 5,000 online signatures from people calling for the government to bring the legislation into force, noting that The Bahamas remains one of the few countries in the world without freedom of information legislation.

The Ingraham administration passed the legislation towards the end of its third non-consecutive term in office with the effective date for its implementation set for July 1, 2012.

However, the bill was later withdrawn by the current government which had taken office with the May 2012 election.

Now, Save the Bays says it anticipates a re-introduction and lauds Mr. Pinder, a member of Cabinet, for urging its passage when he was a member of the Opposition party in 2012.

“We are very pleased to know that the current Financial Services Minister, Ryan Pinder, called for the passage of a Freedom of Information Act when he was speaking for the Opposition a little over a year ago,” said Save the Bays Director Fred Smith.

“We trust that he still believes today what he said then that access to public information is ‘an important hallmark of a mature democracy’.”

Those words were part of a contribution Mr. Pinder made to parliament in March 2012.

“We support the freedom of information for Bahamians; we support the ability for the Bahamian public to hold their government accountable,” he said, during his contribution to the Freedom of Information Bill 2012 in the House of Assembly.

“This legislation gives Bahamian citizens and residents the general right to access of information held by the central government and its agencies and other designated entities, subject to certain defined exceptions…A friend once said, ‘access to public information is an important hallmark of a mature democracy.’ We should treat this legislation with the importance it demands.”

Environmental protection groups as well as the media have complained for years about a lack of access to important environmental documents.

The issue was thrust back into the headlines recently after Bimini residents complained that the government had allowed a foreign developer to begin construction on a cruise terminal in North Bimini without consulting them.

The terminal is being built by Resorts World Bimini. A recently released Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report highlights several troubling findings, noting that the potential impact of constructing the terminal is expected to be high.

The Bimini issue was one of many that highlighted the need for freedom of information legislation.

Earlier this year, local media organisations called for a Freedom of Information Act when they were denied access to a report about charges that a group of Cuban detainees had been beaten by defence force officers at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

Media eventually got access to the report into those abuse allegations after leaked documents surfaced.

Mr. Pinder said even though the former government brought the legislation to parliament, it did not seem that it had put the necessary electronic oversight in place to ensure that it was “properly implemented.”

In fact, the minister expressed serious doubts that Bahamians would benefit from its enactment.

“It is unclear how effective the [FOIA] would be in providing actual freedom of information to Bahamians. When the provision exempting information subject to the Official Secrets Act is taken together with all the possible avenues for the government (through ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of other public authorities and information managers) to prohibit access to information (under the various exemptions), it certainly raises the question as to what exactly will change when . . . it becomes law,” he said.

Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Ninety-three countries around the world have an FOIA, including Jamaica, the United States, the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China, Uganda and Nigeria.

Save the Bays was established in March 2013 by a group of concerned individuals for the protection of The Bahamas’ marine environment.

To sign the online petition, visit

Written by Jones Bahamas

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