16 January, 2022

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Is The Government Deaf, Dumb & Blind On The Right To Information Commission?

More than two months after the terms of office of three Commissioners of the first Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka expired on 30th September and the remaining two Commissioners resigned, the Parliamentary Council which replaced the Constitutional Council under the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, has yet not forwarded nominated names to the President of Sri Lanka for appointment in terms of Section 12 (3) of the RTI Act.

More than two months after the terms of office of three Commissioners of the first Right to Information Commission of Sri Lanka expired on 30th September

Parliament had published the call for nominations to the Commission in the first week of October in response to which the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), media organisations and civil society groups had forwarded their nominations. BASL, which is the only professional entity named in Section 12 as having an allocated single seat, had nominated former RTI Commissioner and prominent advocate Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena to fill the seat according to a press release issued by BASL at the time.

The Colombo Telegraph learns that the Sri Lanka Press Institute, comprising the editors, publishers and journalists, had nominated former judge of the Court of Appeal Rohini Walgama who had also served on the previous Commission. Other media organisations and public interest groups had also sent in nominations. However reports differ as to how many nominations have been recieved by the Parliamentary Council with the number varying by some accounts, from 20-40 nominations.

Civil society watchdogs and media groups have complained regarding the delay to put new Commissioners into place. Issuing a press release several weeks ago, the Steering Committee of the National Media Forum called upon the Parliamentary Council represented by Government and Opposition members to immediately appoint members to the Right to Information (RTI) Commission and to ensure the people’s rights guaranteed by Sri Lanka’s Constitution. Editors and journalists forming part of the Forum pointed out that, there is not even a permanent Director General in place at the Commission. Currently the Media Ministry has seconded its Additional Secretary, Administration to act in the place of the Director General. As per Section 13 of the Act, the Director General, as the CEO of the Commission, must be appointed by the Commission.

Journalists have meanwhile asked on social media as to whether the reluctance of the Government to have an independent and fully functional RTI Commission in place is due the risks that this will pose to corrupt politicians and public officials. ‘Is this part of the general breakdown in state systems evident everywhere else in Sri Lanka?’ asked a journalist who had been using the Commission appeal process against delays by Government authorities to give information. ‘If they do not have the Commission to crack the whip over them as we have seen during the past few years, we might as well forget about the RTI Act,’ he said.

The Colombo Telegraph has also understood that the staff of the Commission is largely idle with appeals piling up and no Commissioners to attend to them. A staffer who spoke to Colombo Telegraph on the grounds of anonymity said that the backlog will make it doubly hard for the new Commissioners to attend to the work. ‘Perhaps this is the idea behind the delays’ he said.

Sri Lanka’s RTI Act was passed unanimously in Parliament in 2016. During 2017-2021, the first RTI Commission issued several hundred Orders out of which, a percentage of 82% had resulted in directives to the Government release information, from the Office of the Cabinet to municipal authorities and District/Divisional Secretary offices. Though compliance to Commission Orders had been generally high during the first two years, the global pandemic had interrupted the RTI process from 2020 onwards.

The Commission office also informed Colombo Telegraph that ten appeals have been filed against Commission decisions to the Court of Appeal. These include the Order issued against former President Maithripala Sirisena to release the Declaration of Assets of the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Order issued to Parliament to release the lists of MPs who have submitted their Declarations of Assets and Liabilities and a directive to the Central Bank to release information on the investments of EPF/ETF Funds.

As of this date, the Court of Appeal has not heard and determined these appeals which have been pending for more than two years.

 

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Is The Government Deaf, Dumb & Blind On The Right To Information Commission??
    =====================
    This Government Deaf, Dumb & Blind. Period!

  • 0
    2

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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    • 1
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      leelagemalli – what happened as it doesn’t happen to you ?

  • 7
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    The delays in appointing all the bodies are because they are still searching for a Rajapakse! It’s better they do not appoint anyone, rather than appointing thugs like Gnanasara to Presidential Commissions.

  • 2
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    The issue cannot be resolved with any positive outcome, simply because, this is not the first time that this sort of lackadaisical attitude towards appointment of independent Committee/Commission which have a termination clause as part of democratic right of review of the constituents, over a fixed term!
    This happened in Chandrika’s, Mahinda’s and Gotabaya’s time of presidency!
    Why? No reason adduced of substantial value!!
    Too many applicants is gobbledygook!!!
    You may call it Least Common Denominator (LCD) or Highest Common Factor (HCF).
    The result in all these events is the SLFP and its’ offspring ‘Freedom becoming People’, acting to deny the Freedom and the arms of the state for such Freedom!!!!
    Is it not?
    You don’t need a Aristotle to identify that! Nor do we need a Sri Lankan Archimedes to get out of his ‘Bathwater naked and running down the streets of Serene Colombo’ to proclaim that fact!
    The will sure disturb the many Menike’s having a bath in the public water tap in “Amu Redhi”, down that street!!
    Another factor in the political equation – 6.9 Million, bad memory and/or don’t remember bad dreams!!!
    Think Positive!!!!
    In effect, 6.9 Million have declared “NO RTI”
    Live with it!!!!!

  • 4
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    “Is the Government Deaf, Dumb and Blind?” Neither. The Government Hears, Knows, and Sees. But, its obtuse Arrogance, Obsession, and obstructionism are the foundation stones on which the Government Machinery has been built by “Rajapakse & Co.” So, unless and until this “Foundation” is TORPEDOED nothing could be achieved.

    • 1
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      Simon,
      .
      Could you kindly reveal us more about GHANSARA, the man who is now hidden behind SANGA COSTUME..?

      he is believed to be coming froma rural corner near to Galle. The sinhala filthy langauge he has been using attacking a kind monk is now in circulation. Please simon, provide us with an Email so that we could directly keep in touch with you… just after you knowing ours, you could change your email again and again… we need to share you lo tmore in the future.

      To me the manner the rascal uses words that would not match to even CHEEWARA DHARIYA….. why on earth do people tolerate him yet today ? Gone were the days, such rascals were guned down by unknown men and women. That is the common culture of our so called BUDDHIST country from the very day I know it. However, nothing seems to work on punishing them either by Karmic retribution or any other means, though they become that hurtful.

      • 1
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        Dear LM: Yes, this Ganasara is from Galagodaththe village in Gale District and was educated at Wathurawila Aranya Senasanaya. Later he proceeded to Anuradhapura and obtained his “Degree” from Kelaniya University. He is a “SHAME” on all of us and beyond that, I resist talking of him, excepting to refer to him as “Galagodaya” in my Galle, village vocabulary

        Sorry, my friend. I cannot print here my email address to be public. Let us find some other means of exchanging it in time to come. Have a nice day.

        • 0
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          Simon,
          .
          Please discuss this with KADAMANDIYA people and get back to us what they have to say about ” BBS mad dog”:
          What is the name of the temple the bugger monk is made chief priest ?
          Prior to 2015, the bugger was like a DADORI BALLAH, and was not respected by anyone, but women in general incl teachers thought, if there was not GHANSARAS or the like thug-monks, Muslims would not care much about anything but would breed their race. I had then unstoppable arguments with my relative circles…. not being able to convince them the ground reality of a monk of BBS head nature. The man should be hung by his balls, – my angers grow more, when I think about the manner our SORRYSENA released him from the imprisonment. Politicians in this country should take the responsiblity for letting the kind of DADORI BALLAH.s free not leaving respect and dignity to the people.
          :

  • 7
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    You guys have a grand talent to always look at the wrong end of the elephant in the room ………….

    First things, first.

    This is not rocket-science or finding the direction of spin in an entangled-pair: it’s kindergarten simple ………. Please please please get this into your heads ……… Rajapakses didn’t come to power to do anything to benefit the country, the people/citizens, their own supporters, other politicians in their own party/Bud, …….. or their shameless lackeys/minions …… Vasu, Dinesh, Wimal, Gamanpilla, Vitharana, ……. ( Cabrral is different, they need him: he knows a little about money-laundering ) ……..

    They have come to power to gather all for themselves.

    The constitution will be written to benefit no one but the Rajapakses. The economy will be run to benefit no one but the Rajapakses. ……… The religions will be used for the advantage of no one but the Rajapakses – The Cardinal and the Buddhist priests (who supported them ) were used and dumped once the purpose was served.

    Look at the breeding of the people in power ………. what else can you expect from serial-killers and looters? Yeah, what the bloody hell can you expect?

    • 5
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      continued

      Only thing I can ever agree with CBK …….. “A bunch of uneducated, uncivilized, uncultured, uncouth, murderous rascals.” Even Eagle Eye or Soma couldn’t have said it better!


      “English education” has changed nothing in the primitive Lankan mind ……. only thang, people have learned the English language better: perhaps, at times, even better than the native-speakers (not Native Vedda: the English in England) ……… we still write as if some fuddy-duddy geriatric professor sitting in a stuffy room in Oxford is marking everything we write from 0 – 100.

      Get away from the stuffy language crap …….. hang loose …… and learn to simply look at things straight in the eye …….. we might get somewhere …………..

      • 3
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        continued

        Try not to be controlled …..all these are done by subtle mind-games/suggestions/propaganda ……… look around; it’s everywhere …….. the trick is, to know how it’s done and not get caught ……..

        Even Warren Buffett with his great “reputation for honesty” cunningly plays this game ………. his company Berkshire Hathaway has never paid a dividend in its entire history. People wouldn’t buy shares in a company that never pays dividends, that’s why he gives so many interviews and always in the public-eye with all the razzmatazz to keep it in the limelight: the greater fool theory ……… NYSE: BRK.A = 426,200.00 USD ($6000 – 7000 —– 1990)

        The Rajapakses are doing better!

        Enough said ……….

        • 3
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          nimal fernanado: I agree in toto with what you said. Haven’t I said the same in a few lines what (in their Hidden Agenda) “Rajapakse & Co” wanted and executed? You have done more service by explaining those “Motivations” of “Rajapakse & Co.”. Thank you.

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