What secret is so grave?

What secret is so grave?

Monday, October 14, 2019

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Dear Editor,

As I see it, truth is really stranger than fiction. If someone had written in a storybook that their Government attempted to restrict access to Government information, moving the barrier from 10 to 30 years, that would have sounded insane. Now here, in living colour, we see our Government attempting to, almost secretively, move the barrier to information from 20 to 70 years.

To put this figure in perspective, imagine you are a journalist. At the peak of your career you are 35 years old, you come upon a groundbreaking story, but have to use the Access to Information Act. Your attorney informs you that you will have to wait 20 years for the result. You are saddened, but hopeful; 20 years will pass soon, right? Then a call-back clarifies the law has just been changed, you will have to wait till you're 105 years old to get your question answered. The point? You would, most likely, be dead!

Seventy years is a ridiculously long time, and just five years shy of the life expectancy of Jamaicans.

Seeing that 30-year-olds are significantly more likely to use the Access to Information Act than five-year-olds, the percentage chance of each person living to 100 also becomes very significant. There isn't much consensus, but it seems that those who are 40 years old have a nine per cent to 14 per cent chance of living to 100, depending on your gender (I would assume slightly higher for 30 years). And that number does not account for being able to read, remember your first name or have the gusto to take on corruption. At the end of such a move, the law which sought to increase transparency, accountability and public participation would likely have been made senile.

Prime Minister Holness, in response to all the backlash, is trying to shape this as a move to protect the greater good of the country, in favour of the people. I struggle to see how that is so. If there are national security concerns, exceptions can be made for specific high-risk categories.

Locking the people out is never the democratic answer. What secret is so grave that the Government would risk seeming so autocratic? At the end of the day, we are certainly left with more suspicion than relief, and more questions than answers.

Dr Daniel Thomas


Love March Movement

Colourblind Campaign

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