"The Solomon Islands Cabinet has agreed to activate the processes to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) as a priority," announced John Keniapisia, the Co-Chair of the Solomon Islands Anti-Corruption Taskforce, at the Freedom of Information (FOI) workshop being held in the Solomon Islands.

The FOI workshop is a follow up to the 2008 Regional Freedom of Information workshop held in the Solomon Islands and has been organised at the request of the Solomon Islands Ombudsman, with support from the UNDP Pacific Centre, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

The submission to Cabinet for the Government to sign the UNCAC was made in December 2008 by the Minister for Education.

"There is an opportunity to put freedom of information on the Government agenda through the work of the Solomon Islands Anti-Corruption Taskforce. Different groups should work together to explore options for moving the freedom of information forward," said Keniapisia.

Keniapisia in his address to the participants of the workshop also emphasised that freedom of information is an important tool in the fight against corruption.

"Promoting public scrutiny, monitoring and discussing corruption is an element in the fight against corruption," he said.

Solomon Islands Ombudsman,Mr. Joe Porawai, echoed Keniapisia's comments saying that in order to promote transparency and accountability, it is important that there should be a mechanism in place where the public could resort to when they want to see or access government records.

"This is where a Freedom of Information or Access to Information Legislation is needed," said Porawai.

The Deputy Prime Minister welcomed the discussion on FOI saying his Government supported information disclosure as way of improving governance and development outcomes.

"Of course, we recognise that there will need to be some legitimate limits on the extent of disclosure, as it should not undermine the public interest and national security...Nonetheless, my Government looks forward to working to implement the right to information," he said.

"We will continue to work closely with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and other stakeholders to develop freedom of information legislation to give effect to the realization of freedom of information - one of our fundamental human rights."

The Solomon Islands workshop which brought together national stakeholders, from across government, civil society and the media to discuss the value of the right to information for Solomon Islands and possible strategies for implementing the right ended yesterday.

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