Monday, September 29, 2008

Expert Says Caribbean Countries Should Celebrate 'Know Your Rights Day'

By Oscar Ramjeet

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands: Know Your Rights Day was celebrated on Friday and is being celebrated on September 28, every year in more than 60 countries by promoting Public Access to Information (PATI) Legislation for unencumbered public access to government held information.

James Ferguson of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), the international non government organization working for the practical realisation of human rights in Commonwealth countries, has issued statements on the importance on the right to know and he referred to two Caribbean countries, of which he said that the day marked an opportunity for St Kitts and Nevis to lead, and for Grenada to have an impetus for positive change.

The lengthy statement from Ferguson stated that both St Kitts and Nevis, and Grenada lagged behind many Commonwealth member states, notably Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and most recently the Cayman Islands (which is in the process of implementation), which have already enacted effective legislation to provide a legal framework for the realisation of this fundamental right.

"St Kitts and Nevis should recognize and promote the worldwide proliferation of government transparency and accountability. To retain legitimacy and respect elected representatives must be accountable to the public by openly disclosing information about the activities they undertake with public funds," the CHRI official said.

Speaking about Grenada, Ferguson said that with the emergence of a new National Democratic Congress government under Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, International Right to Know Day presents an opportunity for the people of Grenada to press their new government to adopt a functioning PATI regime.

He added that access to information was a fundamental human right as, without its protection, it was almost impossible for people to exercise fully their other rights and freedoms.

“The politics of inclusions and the principles of openness, transparency and accountability dictate that whether it is convenient for them or not, governments must be open to public scrutiny,” Ferguson said. “Grenada should recognize and promote worldwide proliferation of government transparency and accountability.”

Source: CNN

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