Transparency Saint Helena

Arguing for improved access to the way government takes decisions. In short, the creation of a Freedom of Information Ordinance for St. Helena.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

That means more transparency, folks!

From Henry Bellingham MP, Minister for the Overseas Territories, Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s statement accompanying today’s White Paper “The UK and the overseas territories - a vision for security, success and sustainability”:

And there are certain standards which we must all uphold, in particular in maintaining the rule of law, respecting human rights, and integrity in public life. We are committed to taking strong action to combat corruption in the UK and we expect the Territories to do likewise.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What can YOU do?

In a posting on our Facebook page, councillor Tony Green wrote: “John, I am personally very much in favour of having freedom of information legislation but to get something kickstarted I'd need to get some of my colleagues on board. Tony

So what can we do to gain support?  I can see three things:

1) encourage your friends to ‘like’ our Facebook page .  The more ‘like’s we have the more people will listen to what we have to say;

2) write to your councillor(s) and/or the newspapers and tell them you support having Freedom of Information legislation here;

3) consider standing as a councillor yourself  – the general election is only a year away!

Friday, June 22, 2012

So too does The Education & Employment Directorate

From this week's Independent:

The Education & Employment Directorate advises that the formal monthly meeting of the Education & Employment Committee will be held on Monday, 25th June at the Education Learning Centre @7pm.

This meeting will be broadcast live via radio St Helena. The public is invited to attend for the open agenda which is:
· Three minute deposition
· Report from the Director on Maths Teaching
· 3. Matters arising from last minutes No.683:-
07.2.2 Paper on apprenticeship
07.3.1 Paper on Training Programme
07.4 Paper on Pupil Referral Unit
07.6 Availability Labour Shortage OL
· 4. Draft Exco Papers on Minimum Wage

Enterprise St. Helena embraces transparency

From the ESH newsletter:


To promote increased transparency, future meetings with ESH’s Board of Directors will include an open-part Agenda session to which members of the Public and the Press can observe Board proceedings concerning the operational affairs of ESH.

The Board will generally meet on the last Wednesday of each quarter end. The first meeting with an open-part session will be held on Wednesday 27th June 2012 at the Education Learning Centre commencing at 1:00pm.

You can contact ESH using or on tel 2920.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

St. Helena's Constitution denies us our right to information

Freedom of Information is a human right, according to the United Nations.  In its very first session in 1946, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 59(I), stating:

Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and ... the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.

Last year by the United Nations' Human Rights Committee reconfirmed this, saying:

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights embraces a right of access to information held by public bodies. Such information includes records held by a public body, regardless of the form in which the information is stored, its source and the date of production. ... the right of access to information includes a right whereby the media has access to information on public affairs  and the right of the general public to receive media output.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been extended to St Helena so that means it covers us.

And yet the Constitution of St. Helena is entirely silent on this human right.

Feedback from one of the 80% . . .

Feedback is welcome, and I just received the following email (which I'm publishing anonymously, though it was signed):

Dear Mr. Turner,

I was pleased to read your letter in this week's Independent regarding the poor turnout in the recent By-election. I agree entirely with your comments regarding the lack of openness and transparency within the St. Helena Government. Right or wrong, must confess that I was one of those who did not bother to vote.  I thank and admire you for publicly speaking out and wish that more of us would have the courage to do so.

Sincerely yours,

The story so far . . .

25th May: In his interview with Simon Pipe, broadcast this week on SaintFM, DfID Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell sang the praises of Transparency in public life. But when asked why none of the British Overseas Territories has Freedom of Information Legislation in place he said it was a matter for the territories’ local administrations, not for him. I believe St. H...elena would benefit from more transparency. I’ve set out a few ideas below and would like to set up an informal discussion group – open to everyone including those within government – to discuss how this could be achieved. Details below.
Transparency benefits everyone. If you see a government decision and you ask yourself “how on earth did they come to that conclusion?” transparency tells you the answer. It benefits you – you understand – and, importantly, it benefits government, as I will now explain.
Imagine that a decision has been taken that disadvantages you or your friends, family or business interests. If you don’t know how the decision was reached, you might think that you have been deliberately victimised. Maybe someone who dislikes you has had influence over the decision? But if the decision-making process is transparent you know that didn’t happen. Moreover, because it’s a transparent process you know that couldn’t have happened. Everybody benefits from knowing the decision was objective, not personal.
Imagine a decision is announced and widely criticised. If government explains how it took the decision, everyone can understand. And if there is information the government didn’t have, or ways of approaching the issue they didn’t think of, someone else can spot it and fill in the gaps. If a government (any government) hides behind secrecy, people usually assume the worst – malice or incompetence – neither of which is a healthy view of a government’s decisions.
Should everything be transparent? No. Some things must remain confidential. But what changes with transparency is how the decision to publish is taken. At present, everything is secret unless government decides to publish it. In a transparent government, everything is public unless there is a good reason to make it a secret. By applying the secrecy test that way around much more gets published.
Could I use it to find out stuff about my neighbours? No. Freedom of Information only covers government information and always specifically excludes personal and private information.
Do we need a full Freedom of Information act like the UK or USA? I don’t think so. Life here is much less complex and I’m sure local legislation could meet our need without adding any significant expense. We don’t need to create a new bureaucracy! Something simple that implements the “it’s published unless there’s a reason not to” test would do.
Finally, people will naturally trust an open government much more than a secretive one. If we can’t trust our government to make fair and sensible decisions, we are in a pretty dire situation. Anything that helps us gain that trust has to be worth considering.
I could fill this newspaper with arguments but in the end, what I think isn’t that important. I hope this is a shared view that others will support. This is not an anti-government campaign – it’s not an anti-anyone campaign. I believe improving transparency here benefits everyone. If you do too, please contact me – call me at Moonbeams on 2944; at Burgh House on 3235; email or see the campaign page “Transparency Saint Helena” on Facebook.

"...the public are our ultimate paymaster and we should therefore be open with them, unless there is a very good reason not to
be" - Guidance issued to UK Civil Servants.

I (JT) also posted my views on the by-election turnout, and how this relates to Transparency, on my Random Thoughts blog.


The great question!  Well, actually, two questions:  “Why Transparency Saint Helena?" and “Why this blog?”

The second is the quicker one to answer: Transparency Saint Helena has a Facebook page, but not everybody uses Facebook.  This blog is visible to anyone with Internet access.  It will contain the same material, so you don’t need to read both.

Now for the first question: “Why Transparency Saint Helena?"

Transparency Saint Helena argues for improved access to the way government takes decisions. In short, the creation of a Freedom of Information Ordinance for St. Helena.

The arguments for this will become apparent in the postings that will follow.

Comments are welcome.  They will be moderated to prevent spam but otherwise all opinions will be published, whether supportive or not.  That’s Transparency in action.