The Right to Information Commission (RITC) has ordered to release the list of Members of Parliament in the Sri Lankan Parliament, who submitted declarations of assets and liabilities from 2010 to 2018.
The RITC issued the order, giving the ruling in an appeal filed by a journalist. The appeal was heard at length by the commission for more than two years.
During the extensive hearing, the Parliament and the journalist who made the appeal were briefed for several days and after considering all the facts, the decision including the order of the Commission was issued to the relevant parties yesterday (05).
Chamar Sampath who is a journalist had submitted a request for information to the Parliamentary Information Officer in 2018, requesting the names of the Members of Parliament who had declared assets and liabilities from 2010 to 2018. The Information Officer of Parliament has refused to provide the information and informed to make a request to the Speaker for the information under the Assets and Liabilities Declaration Act No. 01 of 1975, if such information is required.
The journalist appealed to the designated officer in Parliament, stating that his request was not for a declaration of assets and liabilities but only a list of MPs who had declared their assets and liabilities. The journalist had appealed to the RTIC after the designated official of Parliament also refused to provide information.
Officials representing Parliament at the hearing of the appeal stated that since the Speaker’s Office and the Secretary General’s Office are two institutions, the request for information should be directed to the Speaker’s Office. It was revealed during the hearing of the appeal that there is no Information Officer in the Speaker’s Office and that the administration of Parliament is done by the Office of the Secretary General.
During the hearing, it was stated that under the Assets and Liabilities Act, only declarations of assets and liabilities can be obtained and the names of the Members of Parliament who have declared their assets and liabilities should be obtained via the Information Act.
Parliament argued that the Assets and Liabilities Act is enforceable beyond the Information Act and the RTIC stated in their decision that the Right to Information Act prevails over the Assets and Liabilities Act, and that the information requested is important to the public because of the information regarding the accountability and transparency of elected representatives.
The Right to Information Commission has given a 26 page judgment stating the reasons for this decision. At the end of the verdict, the RTIC ordered the immediate release of the information requested by the journalist.