June 11, 2019
My use of the FOIA to get answers from UTT
The plan by Government of Trinidad and Tobago to suddenly amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, 1999) is an undemocratic attempt to frustrate the rights of citizens for transparency and accountability of public authorities.
The FOIA has a simple form to fill which has been used by ordinary citizens free of charge, often without the help of an attorney.
When 59 of us were retrenched as lecturers by the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) on May 11, 2018, our dismissal letters merely stated that we were being fired because we were deemed “surplus” and “redundant” to the university’s “restructuring exercise.”
It is only through the use of the FOIA that I received the following startling facts that are being used in my lawsuit against UTT for wrongful dismal.
(1) In a FOIA response to my request to see a progress report of the restructuring exercise, UTT stated in a letter dated 05/10/18 – five months after we were dismissed – that “[T]he restructuring exercise is not complete and there is no Restructuring Exercise Report.”
(2) I was retrenched by administrator Judy Rocke for carrying a 70% teaching workload (discounting Practicum) when some of my former colleagues had scores as low as 15%, 28%, 34%, etc. and were retained, and
(3) Through the use of the FOIA, I was able to get copies of the CVs/Resumes of two unqualified lecturers who replaced us to teach Anthropology and TVOC (Technical and Vocational Education).
The 30-day limit to respond to FOIA requests for information from Government agencies ensures timely equality of treatment and empowerment of all citizens who pay taxes to support these same institutions.
Government’s proposal to extend the response time to 90 days, and then an additional 90 days pending the approval of the Attorney General – a political appointee – is clearly an attempt to
politicize the response process. Government’s plan is also to discourage and obstruct members of the public from their “right to know” about the operations of public authorities.
Government should not try to hide information that is in the public interest.
Dr Kumar Mahabir, Retrenched Assistant Professor
University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago
Source: World Hindu News