17 May, 2018, 9:46 am
AN academic has questioned the purpose of Fiji’s new Information Act which was passed in Parliament last night. Professor Vijay Naidu of the University of the South Pacific’s School of Governance, Development and International Affairs is of the view that the Act lacked public consultation, restricting the general public’s access to public information kept by the State.
Prof Naidu said the Act was “very strange”, in that it failed to ask the public the information they ought to have.
Tabling the Bill in Parliament, Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the Bill was the first step towards what one may call a “democratisation of information”.
“So many times in the birth, deaths and marriages where somebody has misspelt a person’s name when they bond to get married or at birth they misspelt the name,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
“It has taken two years for us to do this. We should empower people to actually get information about themselves and indeed information that are incorrect or correct by themselves.”
The Act allows the members of the public to access information from public offices about themselves.
Opposition MP Professor Biman Prasad said he was surprised the Bill was not debated. And by that he meant, the Bill was referred to the Committee of Parliament as a whole where MPs scrutinised the Bill clause by clause and returned to the House to be passed.
Prof Prasad claimed the Bill was not freedom of information Bill.
He said the Bill had no provisions in terms of the public’s interest and he was more concerned about transparency, accountability and good governance.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said certain sections of the Bill protected information that it needed to preserve.
“The fact of the matter is respective agencies can actually stop giving out information should it fall within those provision,” he said.
“What is important about this Bill is not about the individual accessing this information, that people who are making decision about Fijians will actually now have to be cautious.”
*This article was also compiled by Luke Nacei