Residents of the British Virgin Islands should hold their elected representatives accountable for the constantly promised and yet-to-be-delivered Freedom of Information Act, Governor Augustus Jaspert has said.
The Act has been a constant fixture in the Speech from the Throne in the last few years. The Speech from the Throne is delivered by the sitting Governor and is done to outline the legislative agenda the elected government plans to pursue.
“It is really important that those speeches from the Throne are implemented,” the Governor said during a press conference on Friday. “That is something that I hope you all (the public) hold us to account … the government and the public service has a duty to then implement them.”
His remarks were made in light of another Speech from the Throne scheduled for the next few weeks.
History of promises
In March last year, Governor Jaspert’s Speech from the Throne under the previous National Democratic Party administration said Government was planning to implement the piece of legislation in the House of Assembly in 2018.
During that time, he said he had noticed a trend where former governors made legislative promises in their respective throne speeches that local government never followed through on.
Freedom of Information is one such Bill that has often recurred. But Governor Jaspert hopes this year is the final time talks to introduce the legislation will be mentioned in a Speech from the Throne, he said at the time.
“The Freedom of Information Act is something that I support … I hope that when we get back from summer break, it will be brought forward,” the Governor had said.
If the Bill is ever introduced and formally passed, it will include ‘guidelines on how persons can access public records without any exemptions’, Governor Jaspert had said back in March.
The Bill is also expected to include recommendations for the establishment of a Freedom of Information Unit, which will provide the public with ‘the appropriate administrative mechanism to make and receive requests’.
In response to the much-touted Bill, then Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie said if the NDP failed to implement the Bill, he would have it implemented if his Virgin Islands Party is elected into office.
It is now left to be seen if Fahie, who is now the Premier of the British Virgin Islands, will keep his word.