Friday, October 23, 2009

Jamaican PM: ATI and Gay Violence Files;

Gleaner Poll on Buju Meeting

(Transgender Jamaican person under attack by a mob, Arpil 2007.)

The Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston received one of my formal requests for any files, from January 2004 through this week, related to attacks against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Jamaicans. Prime Minister Bruce Golding's director for such requests, Damian Cox, sent a detailed reply, shared below.

Always good to have governmental officials anywhere engaged in searching for and releasing gay-related files, and to have them requesting other government ministries do likewise. However, I do have one small complaint with Cox's reply. He omits the word "gay". I'm used to similar replies from USA officials in which they clearly spell out the nature of public information requests.

I noted this in my response to Cox and hope the omission is not reflective of any bias against gay Jamaicans, either by him or the Prime Minister.

One other thing, related to the continuing controversy almost two weeks after I and other gay activists in San Francisco met with homo-hating singer Buju Banton, the Gleaner newspaper is conducting an online poll over this question:
Have gay activists gone overboard in their campaign against deejay Buju Banton?
Click here to vote; poll is in the far-right column and you must scroll down to find it, and go here to view results of the poll.

The letter from the Office of the Prime Minister:
I acknowledge receipt of your access to information request.

The Access to Information Act and framework in Jamaica provides for designated officers (Access Officers) to process your request. In the case of the Office of the Prime Minister that person would be:

Ms. Sandra Braimbridge
Director, Documentation, Information & Access Services [...]

This information is also available in the Access to Information section of the website of the Office of the Prime Minister.

I have copied my response to you to Ms. Braimbridge who will be in contact with you on whether any such records exist within the Office of the Prime Minister. I have also copied the access officers of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of National Security so that they may begin to research whether there are any reports or statistics within their public authorities that may exist prior to the likely transfer of your request.

The Office of the Prime Minister is not responsible for the collection or dissemination of crime statistics. This is matter that is primarily within the domain of the relevant unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (Police Force).

Preliminarily, I would caution that homicide and violence statistics in Jamaica may not be kept in the way you seek.

The only consideration in fulfilling your request if relevant documents do exist is, whether they are exempt or not? Your occupation, reasons, agenda or other status is irrelevant.

The Access Officers have a legal duty to assist all applicants and will do so with the professionalism demanded of all public servants.

I will ask that you allow the established process to work to facilitate you. Bypassing systems established by the Government to ensure the efficient provision of Access to Information to all members of the public does not aid the efficient and timely processing of your request within 30 days (calendar not working as you indicated).

In Jamaica we strive to abide by the letter and the spirit of the Access to Information Act and requests are processed as soon as possible within the statutory time-lines.

Access to Information requests should not be directed to the Honourable Prime Minister, Ministers of Government, Permanent Secretaries or the general staff of Ministries or other public authorities, but to the designated Access Officers.

Kind regards,
Damian Cox

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