Guyana President Appoints Information Commissioner

10 June 2013

The president of Guyana has appointed a former attorney general, Charles Ramson Sr., as the first  Commissioner of Information under the 2011 Access to Information Act.

The mid-May appointment by President Donald Ramotar would appear to be  step toward putting the law into effect, although it remains unclear if that is the case.

Under the law, the government decides when it should go into effect. The law “shall come into force on the date the Minister may, by order, appoint.” The appropriate minister, according to the law’s definitions, is “the Minister to whom responsibility for information is assigned.” Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira, recently was the Guyana representative at a March regional conference at which she said a commissioner would be appointed. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) It could not be immediately ascertained if an order has been issued.

Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon, who announced the decision, was quoted in the Stabroek News as saying: “The Commissioner of Information under the Act has considerable powers. Guyanese would be told through the media of this information available, and how it is available for access by members of the public…the Commissioner would be advising how this could be done.”

He said the commissioner’s office would be located at the Office of the President.

One journalist consulted by FreedomInfo.org said the location “has alarm bells ringing in many media about the effect this could have on the independence (especially as the law explicitly exempts the president from information requests). 

 The text of law, although still not apparently available on official government websites, has been provided to FreedomInfo.org. It was passed Sept. 15, 2011, (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) President Bharrat Jagdeo signed it Sept. 27, 2011.

The commissioner is charged with quite a variety of start-up duties, including publishing a statement about the particulars of the organization, the categories of documents maintained, the materials prepared for inspection, and how to make requests.

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