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Promoter questions viability of Access to Information Tribunal

Published:Saturday | May 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM

WESTERN BUREAU:The usefulness of the Access to Information Tribunal is being questioned due to its year-long inactivity, which has resulted in unheard appeals and the public being left with no other option of challenging the decisions not to release government documents.

Gregory Senior, a Jamaica-born Canadian businessman and entertainment promoter, has a long-standing issue with information from Jamaica's Customs Department. He wants an urgent resolution to the matter, not just for him, but for many others who may have this problem.

"As it is now, not being able to have an appeal heard, Government and its agencies can simply not provide the correct information in order to cover up the truth, knowing the matter won't even be heard after filing an appeal, frustrating individuals that might give up on the process," charged Senior.

VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Senior has since written a letter to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, but he has not received a response, and the tribunal matter still persists.

"Access to information forms part of our rights as humans, and not being able to exercise our rights to its fullest extent is a clear violation of our human rights," Senior added.

The tribunal by law is an independent body constituted by five members appointed by the governor general after consultation with the leader of the opposition and the prime minister of Jamaica.

Director of the Access To Information Unit, Damian Cox, is aware that the tribunal has not been in operation, but confessed that there was little he could do to alleviate the matter.

"We act as the secretariat for the tribunal. Persons submit the appeals through the unit. They are an independent body and the members are appointed by the governor general. All we can do is enquire how far the selection process is."

Appeals cannot be heard without all members of the tribunal being present. Four persons currently sit on the committee as the late John Maxwell had resigned and was replaced with broadcaster Fae Ellington. A second committee member died but has not been replaced.

Several attempts to speak to Minister of Information Senator Sandrea Falconer on the matter have been futile.