PATI: Should Anonymous Requests Be Allowed?

April 9, 2017

The Information Commissioner will be honouring the two year anniversary of the Public Access to Information [PATI] Act by sponsoring a Public Debate by the Bermuda National Debate Team, with the students set to debate whether individuals should be able to file PATI requests anonymously.

The PATI Act went into effect on 1 April 2015, and grants Bermudians and residents of Bermuda the right to access public records, subject to certain exemptions set out in the PATI Act.

“Currently, individuals cannot make anonymous PATI requests to public authorities because the requesters must show they are Bermudian or residents of Bermuda. This limitation has raised concerns about protecting the confidentiality of a PATI requester since the PATI Act went into effect,” the ICO said.

“The Information Commissioner is sponsoring a public debate on this important question for the students of the Bermuda National Debate Team. This public debate will help the team with its preparation for its next international competition.”

Bermuda Crest TC April 9 2017

“The question of filing anonymous PATI requests is important to discuss in smaller jurisdictions like ours. Many requesters will be very open about their desire for public records, especially to promote public accountability for public decisions or spending,” states Information Commissioner Gitanjali S. Gutierrez.

“Some requesters, though, may have a very real fear that a breach of their confidentiality could lead to retaliation or other negative consequences. For these requesters, the ability to make a PATI request anonymously may determine whether or not they exercise their rights.”

The Bermuda Debate Society seeks to encourage and promote debate throughout the island’s schools and sponsors the Bermuda National Debate Team. Founded over 20 years ago, BDS is a registered charity which is responsible for organising national debate competitions and fielding international teams

“We are always looking for more opportunities for local students to be able to practice their debating skills and the ICO public debate presented a perfect opportunity,” stated Akilah Beckles, Coach for the Bermuda National Debate Team.

“An adjudicated debate on a timely topic with local relevance. It is not often that school-level debaters are granted the opportunity to participate in discussions of policy issues in Bermuda. We are certain that the preparation and execution of this debate will benefit both the debaters and the wider Bermuda community”.

The 2017 Bermuda National Debate Team members were selected from a group of skilled candidates who have been evaluated during months of practice and competitions.

The 2017 Bermuda National Debate Team members are: Yasser Baia [The Berkeley Institute], Sierra Brangman [The Berkeley Institute], Tyrese Coakley [The Berkeley Institute], Erin Jones [The Bermuda High School], Megan Sutcliffe [The Bermuda High 2 School], and Asha Symons [Warwick Academy]. They are preparing to represent Bermuda at the 2017 World School Debating Championships in Bali, Indonesia.

Ms. Beckles added, “As sponsors and trainers of the national debate team, we believe that the debaters are well-prepared for debating a motion regarding a variation of policy to an extent that will be useful for encouraging the public’s involvement.

“Student debaters are well-placed to present objective and persuasive content that can help shape our public discussion as they do not have party allegiances to adhere to and care deeply about the future of our country.”

Information Commissioner Gutierrez states, “This is a question about the evolution of the PATI Act. Who better to begin our discussion than our future political, community, and professional leaders on the Bermuda National Debate Team?

“The team has just returned from a strong performance at the Alfred Tuna Snider World Schools Debating Championships in March. The Information Commissioner’s Office is excited to support their preparation for the World School Debating Championships, and to learn from their research and arguments at our Public Debate.”

The public is invited to join the students, their coaches and parents, honoured guests, and the Information Commissioner at the Debate. The Information Commissioner will host a reception following the Debate.

The debate will take place from 6.00pm – 7.15pm on April 12th at the Hallett Hall at Bermuda College.

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  1. Watcher says:

    No comments OBAers????