4 February, 2023

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Appellants Asked To Give Affidavits To The RTI Commission As First Step To Prosecution Under RTI Act 

Commissioner, Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka (RTI Commission) and attorney, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena stated that, the RTI Commission has called upon appellants who have complained of the non-provision of information by Government entities following Commission Orders, to give affidavits regarding the same as the first step to prosecution.

She said this while addressing a session on ‘ RTI – A Law that has worked for Sri Lankan citizens’ hosted by the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) on 26th September, 2022 (yesterday).

The sessions were moderated by attorney and former Ambassador Javed Yusuf and also addressed by senior counsel at Julius and Creasy, Prashanthi Mahindaratne and independent researcher Ashwini Natesan.  

Three books featuring the work of the Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka during 2017-2021were released to mark the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), September 28th 2022. Edited by Pinto-Jayawardena with deputy editors Inshira Faliq and NivedhaJeyaseelan, the first book, ‘A Practitioner’s Guide to Orders of the RTI Commission’ summarises and categorises decisions of the Commission with relevant weblinks. The second and third book contains legal commentaries to Commission Orders and two research papers examining Sri Lanka’s Right to Information regime and the United Nations Sustainable Development Indicators by Natesan and Mahindaratne. 

All three books, in English, Sinhala and Tamil, are published by the Media Reform Lanka Initiative which brought together Sri Lankan legal scholars and media practitioners during 2009 – 2015 to examine reforms to Media Policy, Regulation and Law under the auspices of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; its resource materials are archived by the Marga Institute, Colombo at https://margasrilanka.org/resource-collection-of-media-reform-lanka/  

Ms Pinto-Jayawardena further pointed out that, the recent protests by citizens for better governance in Sri Lanka spoke to the ‘deep hunger’ for the State to function properly, stating that the link between Sri Lanka’s financial crisis and abuse of political power is understood very well in all corners of the country, from fishing villages in Point Pedro, Negombo and Matara to hamlets in the Central and North Central Province. It was that very same ‘hunger’ that drives people to use the RTI Act, she stated. 

She also pointed out that the Act has been a unifying thread between Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities as they used it to rectify the failure of the State in common problems of gross corruption and bad service delivery. 

Ms Mahindaratne spoke about the manner in which the RTI Act has helped the realisation of sustainable development goals but observed that the covid pandemic and the financial crisis has blunted that progress. She stated that the media could do far more to highlight RTI in their spaces. The third speaker, Ashwini Natesan outlined examples of the use of the RTI Act and emphasized that  failure of Public Authorities to respond in time showed a dangerous trend in RTI being ‘taken for granted.’

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