Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jamaican Justice Ministry:

Searching for Gay Violence Files

(A Jamaican transgender person under attack by a mob, April 2007.)

I've learned that in 2002 Jamaica enacted an Access to Information Act (ATI), comparable to our Freedom of Information Act, which clearly states that "every person shall have a right to obtain access to an official document, other than an exempt document. [...] An applicant for access to an official document shall not be required to give any reason for requesting access to that document."

Such words set my "government sunshine" heart aflutter, and I yesterday filed several ATI requests with various Jamaican ministries, asking for records related to violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, or persons perceived as such, stretching back to January 2004.

So far, only the Ministry of Justice, has acknowledged receipt of the request and begun processing it. Here is some of the correspondence I've had with Ms. Brenda Smith, the Information Manager for this ministry:
This serves to acknowledge receipt of your application for access to documents held within the Justice portfolio. Please be advised that the request will be treated in accordance with the guidelines for administering the Act.

You will be advised on the progress of your application hereafter. The legal team will direct, so if there is need for clarification we will continue to communicate with you.
I'm waiting for equivalent acknowledgments from the other ministries and expect to have them by the end of the week.

A similar request was sent to the British Foreign Office yesterday, and one of their information officers, Mr. Henry Leitch, sent this note:
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. It has been passed to the relevant section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with you should your request need clarification.

We received your request on the 20th October 2009 and will aim to respond within 20 working days.
I want to see what records the Jamaican and British governments locate responsive to my ATI and FOIA requests, how they take to process them and what, if anything, they eventually release. And let us all give thanks for every ATI and FOIA statute on the books around the planet, and let's utilize such sunhine laws to pry loose any and all records related to the suffering of gay people.

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