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‘Thankyou for your honesty. Now let’s solve the problem’ – response to councillors on open government for St Helena

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St Helena’s councillors say they support government transparency – but that tensions on a small island mean restrictions are necessary. Click here to find out how they answered questions on transparency. This is the campaigners’ response:

by St Helena Freedom of Information Campaign

We are very grateful to those councillors who had the courage to be open and honest with us.

We have condemned the secrecy that denies people the right to know how they are governed.

Despite this, all but two councillors have been willing to be candid with us – and their people – about why executive council meetings and documents should not be open.

We’re encouraged that some councillors share at least some of our views.

Some say the present situation is adequate, but actually, it prevents the public and media from scrutinising government. That is not democratic, and it’s definitely not open and transparent.

That said, we can sympathise with councillors over the difficulties they face, and we respect their deep knowledge of how society works in St Helena.

They are right: St Helena’s circumstances are different. Councillors have to live cheek-by-jowl with the people who are affected by unpopular decisions. That’s uncomfortable.

But now that the councillors have helped us to understand their concerns, we can try to help make things better.

We will take the information they have given, and seek independent, impartial advice from experts, to see how these problems have been overcome elsewhere.

Local authorities in many countries face exactly the same problems, but they do not solve them with secrecy. There is a better way, and we will help to find it.

Transparency campaign prompts fear of island tensions
Councillors’ responses to open government questions

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