Home News The RTI commission marks four years of SL RTI Regime

The RTI commission marks four years of SL RTI Regime

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The RTI commission marks four years of SL RTI Regime
The Right To Information Commission of Sri Lanka reached the for year milestone since enacting the RTI Act on 3rd February 2017.
Commemorating this achievement, the RTI Commission launched a series of island-wide consultation programs with Public Authorities, civil activists and citizens.
The statement issued by the RTI Commission, marking the 4th year of Sri Lanka’s RTI regime is shown below.
“Marking four years of Sri Lanka’s RTI Act being operationalized on 3rd February 2021, the RTI
Commission continued an island-wide advocacy engagement with Public Authorities,
Communities and citizens with provincial consultations being held in Nuwara Eliya on 21st
January 2021 with the participation of the District Secretary, Nuwara Eliya Mr M.B.R
Pushpakumara, officers of Divisional Secretariats and members of the public.
Further assessment of gains and challenges of the past several years were focused in the
discussions of the RTI Commission with senior academic and administrative staff of the
Universities of Kelaniya and Colombo respectively on 9th and 16th February 2021. The
collaboration of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo is particularly noted in regard to
the latter programme. Activities also included the holding of a two day provincial
consultation in Matara on February 18th and 19th 2021 with community based organisations
(CBOs) who have actively used the RTI Act along with senior public officials of the Office of
the District Secretary, Matara.
Previously discussions were held by the Commission in Panama in the Ampara District,
Ambagamuwa in the Nuwara Eliya District, Sooriyawewa in the Hambantota District,
Killinochchi in Kilinochchi District, Jaffna in the Jaffna District, Karuwalagaswewa in the
Puttalam District, Mahiyangana and Bandarawela in the Badulla District, Kanthale in the
Trincomalee District, Nawalapitiya in the Kandy District and Baddegama in the Galle District.
The Commission intends to continue these advocacy activities during the coming six months
and extends its deep appreciation to District Secretaries, Vice Chancellors of the respective
universities, heads of other Public Authorities, CBOs and public spirited citizens who, despite
severe constraints caused by the spread of covid-19 in Sri Lanka, enthusiastically supported
the programme.
Discussions centered on assessing gains and challenges of the RTI regime, minimising
obstacles in the practical working of the RTI Act due to the continuation of the global
pandemic in the country, including the exploration of holding provincial appeal sittings of
the Commission on a regular basis as well as holding virtual appeal sessions in order to
minimise health risks.
The Commission communicated its increasing concerns regarding delays on the part of
Public Authorities in the giving of information under Sri Lanka’s RTI Act, stating that notices
of warning of prosecutions to public officers assessed as responsible for deliberate delays
and bypassing of official duties under the Act are now being sent under the seal of the
Commission. Though the number was few in this regard, it was observed that the
Commission will not hesitate to resort to its statutory power of activating the criminal legal
process if the RTI Act is intentionally disregarded or flouted.
Positive policy changes and proactive disclosure on the part of Public Authorities
subsequent to four years of the RTI Act being implemented were welcomed. These included
the open publication of lists of beneficiaries of public funds under the Samurdhi programme
and other public welfare initiatives. It was noted that policies, directives and circulars that
impact on the general public are also being made available to citizens and that
municipalities and other state entities engage in greater open disclosure of information on
projects. Even so, proactive disclosure as envisaged in the RTI Act and regulations made
thereunder remain to be strengthened specifically where the use of public funds is in
question.
Meanwhile we are heartened by the inclusion of Sri Lanka as a promising case study in the
2020 global report on the status of Right to Information regimes worldwide, titled ‘From
Promise to Practice…’ presented to the General Assembly by the United Nations Educational
Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). We note the reference in that report to the
fact that, the Commission’s Orders, during 2017-2019, reflect disclosure of information in
full or in part in 85% of appeals. This is in line with the Commission’s determined stand of
protecting the principle of maximum disclosure which underlines the RTI Act.
It is our expectation and hope that hard won gains of RTI during the past several years are
preserved as well as enhanced as Sri Lanka proceeds on her Right to Information journey.”

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