Sunday 29 November, 2020

PM instructs AG to keep 30-day period for FOIA requests

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has revealed that the 30-day period for which a government entity has to process a freedom of information request, will remain unchanged.

The Prime Minister made the revelation during his contribution to the Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank, and Non-Profit Organisations) Bill 2019, in the Lower House on Friday.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, in response to public backlash, proposed fresh amendments to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Al-Rawi said instead of the 90-day period being proposed by government, government agencies will be given a 45-day period to process a request.

However, the Prime Minister on Friday revealed that the current 30-day period will remain.

“So all these discussions about how the democracy of the country is being destroyed and the right to get information is being destroyed… Madam Speaker, as head of the Government I have heard those arguments. We came with a bill to the house asking for an extension of the time the entity will need. It is now 30 days in law. We had said 90 days extreme.

In the face of public commentary, we said okay 45 days, give them two more weeks so they can more completely give the information. They still carrying on. Madam speaker, now as head of the Government, I’m instructing the Attorney General, let the 30 days stand.

Let the 30 days stand. Because that is not the primary objective here. The primary objective here is to prevent the loophole where lawyers dig out taxpayers’ eyes and that stands,” he said.

Earlier, the Prime Minister accused the Opposition of ‘riling up’ the country.

However, he noted that the Government’s intention was simply to close a ‘gaping loophole’ whereby taxpayers are made to pay exorbitant lawyer fees.

“They’ve riled up the whole country. Forty-seven groups say withdraw the bill for consultation. How many groups they have in this country? Four hundred and seven thousand, forty-seven say withdraw the bill. We are here, not to fight with anybody, we are here not to beat down anybody, we are here for one purpose.

We are here to prevent taxpayers from being exposed to unnecessary lawsuits the way taxpayers are made the pay money because there is a gaping loophole in this matter.”

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