Monday, Nov 18, 2019
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Environmentalists push for FOIA enactment

Local environmentalists are calling on the government to enact the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to give them earlier access to information about proposed developments that could impact the environment, Gail Woon, president of Earthcare Bahamas, said.

During a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Woon said environmentalists often do not know about developments that could harm the environment until the deals are done. She is hoping that this will change once the FOIA is enacted.

“We are hoping for the government to institute a Freedom of Information Act wherein stakeholders are able to be made aware of impending developments or changing of legislation or anything that impacts them in their livelihoods,” Woon said.

“Usually, we hear about things once they have already happened, in the press, and it’s a little too late to give your input when the decisions have already been made.”

This week, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also called on the government to enact the law. He said the legislation is needed to ensure accountability and transparency in all branches of government.

The act was passed near the end of the Ingraham administration’s last term, however there was no specified enforcement date for the legislation.

In March, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said the legislation was under review by her office.

She said the government wanted to enact the law “as soon as possible”, but added that the law was being reviewed to ensure that the proper mechanisms are in place to support it.

“There are some aspects of it that actually need to be addressed,” said Maynard-Gibson at a press conference.

“We don’t want to have a situation where we have actually brought something into force and it can’t work.”

Woon also said environmentalists are advocating for stronger environmental protection laws with stiff penalties.

“We’re hoping the government will pass an Environmental Protection Act that has some teeth so that we can actually enforce [it] if someone does something that is a detriment to the environment,” Woon said.

“As it stands now, there is really no penalty for doing any environmental degradation, whether it be marine or terrestrial.”


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