Apr 10, Colombo: Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), the local chapter of the global movement against corruption, says the it will support the Sri Lankan government to pass the Right To Information (RTI) bill in its present form.
Speaking at a media briefing TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekera said the TISL has identified six areas in which the bill can be further strengthened and it has been compiled into a report and given to all 225 members of the parliament.
"While this bill can be improved in parts we definitely support the bill as it stands," Obeyesekera said.
The Executive Director dismissed the claims made recently by some groups that the RTI bill would block the information. "That is fundamentally wrong," he stressed. He said that the RTI bill has the power to show people that if there is overriding public interest, that it will allow disclosure of information to the public.
Obeyesekera said that the people who are not knowledgeable about international RTI bills and acts are the ones who are creating fear around the act and that is a "big problem."
"Our (Sri Lanka's) RTI Bill is in conformity of the best practices of the right to information although there are areas the bill can be improved, but the core of it must be supported," Obeyesekera said.
The bill gives so many powers to the people and the media, he said expressing hope that it can be further strengthened during the committee stage in parliament.
"There were no such articles included to put barriers to reveal information over international agreements such as ECTA. There were no mentioned punishments for media personnel if they revealed information about the state, but it has given a massive opportunity for public and media to accumulate information," he noted.
He said the bill should at very least come in the present form in parliament and it should be supported by the people.
Senior Manager, Advocacy & Public Relations Shan Wijetunge noted that in the last two decades each Government had made several attempts to enact the RTI Act in the people's interest, but failed.
Wijetunge said that adding regulations for the Government would be the importance of the RTI bills and this bill can override other bills.
Accordingly, if the RTI act is implemented all the state owned institutions are answerable to public and responsible to provide required information within 14 days. They can extend the given period up to 21days, but if unable to provide information within the period public can take legal action against them.
According to the TISL, five petitions had been lodged at the Supreme Court against the RTI Act and the Court has considered the legal arguments made by TISL along with several civil society organizations which stressed that the RTI bill was totally constitutional.
TISL said the Supreme Court will inform of its decision to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya within the coming week.