19 September, 2020

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Rajapaksa Government Pledges To Support RTI Act And RTI Commission!

Outlining the media policy of the Rajapaksa Government in assuming duties on Thursday (13th August), its newly minted Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella made the smooth functioning of Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Commission (RTI Commission) a priority, claiming that, ‘the public’s right to obtain and access accurate information will be protected.’ 

Keheliya

The recently gazetted List of Subjects and Functions of the new Government which swept into power following General Elections on August 5th 2020 on a landslide victory of close to a 2/3rds majority with its allies obtaining a significant chunk of votes even from the minority dominated North and East promises a reformed ‘media culture’ for Sri Lanka. No details are spelt out as to what this ‘reformed media culture’ will be. Previously, the media and journalists were threatened and intimidated under the Mahinda Rajapaksa Presidency with several editors being assaulted and assassinated, notably Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge which cases still remain unsolved.      

Analysts said to Colombo Telegraph that the Government’s early pledges to support RTI and the RTI Commission speaks to its rural vote base as RTI was a rare reform which practically helped ordinary people. ‘The middle and upper classes were not much interested in RTI except in select cases. But poor people used the RTI Act enormously as helped by the RTI Commission’s pro-transparency decisions’, a media activist who edits an alternative Sinhala newspaper said.

‘But how much this support will continue with an independent body like this Commission is another matter’, he said. In the background of the new Government’s intention to abolish the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, he clarified that this will not impact the RTI Act except if the Constitutional Council is done away with. Then future Commissioners will be appointed directly by the President, taking away the independent nature of the appointment, he said.  

The RTI Act was enacted by the Parliament on 4th August 2016 on a campaign promise of the United National Party Government after fourteen years of advocacy by media and civil society. Appointments of retired public servant Mahinda Gammampila, prominent constitutional rights attorney Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena (nominee of the Editors Guild/Sri Lanka Press Institute) and attorney SG Punchihewa (nominee of civil society) as Sri Lanka’s first RTI Commissioners took place on October 1st 2016. The nominees were recommended to then President Maithripala Sirisena by the Constitutional Council.  

Former President of the Court of Appeal Justice AWA Salam was later appointed as the nominee of the Bar Association. Following N Selvakkumaran declining his nomination due to his working as a law academic at the Colombo University, social activist Selvy Thiruchandran was appointed as a replacement.  

After the RTI Commission’s Rules were gazetted on 3rd February 2017 and the RTI Act was made operational, the country’s RTI regime was ranked globally as third best by international law ranking agencies with the RTI Commission singled out as one of the most powerful Commissions in the world. Trade unions including the Pilots Guild and the powerful all Ceylon Bank Employees Union got information on major corruption and environmental scandals while journalists lobbied for details of assets declarations of politicians including former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Act has also been invoked against the tri-services and the police with the RTI Commission ruling that national security concerns must be properly established to refuse information.    

Activists however say that the RTI Act was most used by the poor during the past three years for ‘bread and rice’ issues in regard to land disputes, supply of electricity, water, distribution of Samurdhi benefits, admission of children to schools and to expose corruption in the building of rural infrastructure. Public servants also used the RTI Act to get details of promotions and appointments. Interestingly, the Northern District Secretariat, under popular former Government Agent, N Vethanayagam pioneered the revamping of the District Secretariat to fall in line with RTI requirements of open disclosure.                  

The five year terms of Sri Lanka’s first RTI Commissioners expire on 1st October 2021. 

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Latest comments

  • 13
    9

    Thakkadiya (MR) would go on promising so many things but not a single pledge is fullfilled as promised on the PE podiums.These are their kind of tricks from the day one. These tricks are far from understanding to CBK and RW or the like leaders that would have good motices but being unable to transport it to the grass root levels of people.

    What is being seen today is, with both ends shuts these criminals mislead the very same thanakola eaters. That condom supporter to MR – Wimal Buruwanse is for some reasons somewhat silent.
    And the biggest joke is those who strenghthened the stupid mindset of former President Gamarala are kept out of getting any single ministry. SB, John Seneviratne, Susil Pramathilaka, Dilan padadaya and several others. This we find as a good sign btw way could move them to edges by this way. However, the newly elected cabinet men are the same incl. that Rathanaran hora/Rohith Abeygunawardhana, Apawithra wanniarachchi (Monika Luwinsky s counter part in srilanka), Wali hora Diwulapitiya Anurudhdha, Nimal Lanza (Drug kinpin), Rambukwella, and many of others are the same. So how can we be sure these men would not react the way they did it in 2018 demolishing the parliament interior.

    • 7
      5

      This may be useful to you guys.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVZaaf2OK2g

      Dilan Perera, SB, Susil Premachandra, Johnsenviratne and all are upside down as of today.

    • 6
      10

      Mr leela ge …..,
      .
      Above all…
      Don’t lie to yourself.
      The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
      .
      Fyodor Dostoevsky

      • 4
        3

        What are the lies ? Ms/Mr SCP ?

        I am afraid we cant help you. Our time is precious. I would not talk to a wall. Please go back to your cage and leave us the decent people to allow decent discussions on this Platform. You came into being a figure to spread your hearsays protecting criminals. Even than DECENT person, Mr SM was attacked by your at the very begining. However for some reasons you now know SM is the most decent person we could have on this PLATFORM.

    • 0
      0

      From my experience with RTI, I am opinion, if appeals from the public are handled without fear or favour, it will bring in the desired results. However, it may take over a couple of months to achieve.

    • 2
      1

      Please listen to the audio below

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQoxG2mQE8w

    • 3
      1

      We had decent politicians in this country.

      But today, we dont have such politicians. I dont think the future of this country would ever be better.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqeDO9It5YU

      SRILANKA IS MARCHING BACKWARD !!!!!

  • 5
    3

    RTI Act was the major progressive legislation brought forward by the previous government and it is the bounden duty of every right thinking citizen to ensure that RTI Act is not abolished or diluted in any way.

    If at all RTI Act should be extended to include private sector and civil society in addition to Public sector organizations in the RTI Act and the RTI Commission made much more independent .

    • 0
      1

      Please read the article written under the Caption ‘Contempt’ of Litigants’ which appeared in Colombo Telegraph of 22nd January 2020, where reference is made to RTI by Mr. K Balendra.

  • 13
    4

    The RTI is quite meaningless unless the government respects the rule of law. Can the people sue the government successfully when the president’s personal lawyer is the Minister of Justice?

    • 3
      3

      People are made NOT to ” Right To Information” but “Rajapakse To Inform”:
      My gosh people are made so stupid so that everything should come from Rajapakshe palhoru. Wait and see how long this dictatorship would go.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rjA7c3IUak

    • 1
      1

      Something is better than nothing.

      I think current men would not respect any lawful provisions in the constitution.
      :
      The nation and the previous GOVT made it very clear that holding any ministry under CURRENT president would be UNCONNSTITUTIONAL but GOtabaya so called man who is fallen from the sky to teach the ABCD of the DISIPLINE, how dare he himself to be violate the constitution before which he gave his oaths ?

      I think the SITUATION would be even MORE dangerous than the situation before 2015: This time, their biased TV have started to display any fart being droped down by MEDAMULANA racals for the pormotion of their slavery.
      Please watch the video below
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DRBawrvmxw

  • 4
    2

    Can anyone in the whole world tell me the name of a politician who has made a decision knowingly that it would be disadvantageous to him? I know not and in many years to come it won’t be. In that sense this story only helps to boost the image of the minister KR. The cardinal policy of any politician is “Yes! I will support a popular worthy cause as long as I don’t get a good beating on my back”. Now, everything seems to be quiet and nice but it cannot be after sometime. So if anybody wants to preserve civility in society he or she must help the handful in the opposition to call a spade a spade and argue their case in Parliament after proper preparation. If the opposition relaxes it is a sure sign that it too has succumbed to goodies that have been presented to them for being silent.

  • 6
    2

    RTI?
    so lets get RTI – *World Record for Sri Lanka:* 14 cabinet and state ministers under criminal prosecution

    *Cabinet Ministers*
    1. President and “Defence Minister” _Gotabaya Rajapaksa_ – was on trial for embezzling 33 million in public funds, but charges dropped due to presidential immunity

    2. Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister _Janaka Bandara Tennakoon_ – charged with murdering a citizen in Dambulgamuwa, Matale in 1999

    3. Highways Minister _Johnston Fernando_ – On trial for charges of corrupt misuse of Rs. 40 million of Sathosa funds

    4. Industries Minister _Wimal Weerawansa_ – On trial for illegal enrichment to the tune of Rs. 75 million

    5. Energy Minister _Udaya Gammanpila_ – On trial for embezzling Rs. 21 million from an Australian businessman

    6. Sports and Youth Affairs Minister _Namal Rajapaksa_ – on trial for money laundering involving Rs. 30 million funneled through a shell company

    7. Agriculture Minister _Manhindananda Aluthgamage_ – on trial for causing unlawful loss to government of Rs. 50 million, and for embezzling Rs. 3.9 million from a trade union

    *State Ministers*
    1. State Minister for Foreign Employment Promotion and Market Diversification _Piyankara Jayaratne_ – On trial for corrupt embezzlement of Rs. 330,000 of Srilankan Airlines funds

    2. State Minister for Development of Rural and Regional Drinking Water Supply Projects _Sanath Nishantha_ – On trial for assaulting the Arachchikattuwa Divisional Secretary in 2007

    • 1
      1

      ctd…
      *State Ministers*
      1. State Minister for Foreign Employment Promotion and Market Diversification _Piyankara Jayaratne_ – On trial for corrupt embezzlement of Rs. 330,000 of Srilankan Airlines funds

      2. State Minister for Development of Rural and Regional Drinking Water Supply Projects _Sanath Nishantha_ – On trial for assaulting the Arachchikattuwa Divisional Secretary in 2007

      3. State Minister for Development of Rural Paddy Fields and Associated Tanks, Reservoirs and Irrigation _Anuradha Jayaratne_ – Charged with opening fire on an election campaign office with automatic weapons in 2015

      4. State Minister for Cane, Brass, Clay Furniture and Rural Industry Promotion _Prasanna Ranaweera_ – Charged with assaulting a candidate from another party during the 2018 local government election campaign

      5. State Minister for Rural and School Sports Infrastructure Promotion _Thenuka Vidanagamage_ – Charged with obstruction and criminal intimidation of a deputy commissioner of the Elections Department in 2014

      6. State Minister for Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Public Sanitation _Dr. Nalaka Godahewa_ – on trial for conspiracy to misappropriate Rs. 5 million in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) funds

      7. State Minister for Gem and Jewelry _Lohan Ratwatte_ – Charged with murder of 10 Muslim youth, threatening to murder Central Province Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police and firing at the DIG with an automatic weapon in the year 2000.

      The PM’s colours are not listed here.
      too numerous to list

    • 2
      1

      I congratulate CT for publishing your (Rajash) comment – this is a daring act these times.

      The RTI will not be dismantled, until 21-10-21, by when the SLPP cohorts will be selected.
      Until then, RTI applications will decrease, or their requests to RTI will be sabotaged cunningly.

      Rajapakse regime will get along most cunningly, as they have not only trapped the SB
      modayas but cowed the SB intelligentsia, including Yellow Robes for good. I won`t be surprised if Friday Forum
      is disbanded voluntarily. !

      • 0
        0

        punchinilame – these are not secrets …widely known…and trending in the social media

    • 4
      1

      Sri Lanka always making world records. World’s first woman Prime Minister, world’s first country who destroyed the world’s deadliest Terrorists Organization LTTE and completely wiped out entire LTTE leaders.

      • 1
        2

        N. Pererass

        “World’s first woman Prime Minister,”

        Was she not seen normally using men’s toilet than lady’s one?

      • 0
        0

        N Perera

        I am sure you are very happy with this world record as is the Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhist rural masses .

  • 8
    2

    When has Alibaba Mahindan Rajapuka ever spoken the truth.?

  • 4
    2

    Whole lot of garbage. I know people who sent request after request for information but nothing was received.

    These crooks run SL like North Korea. In vain there is no Tamil tigers today to save SL from them.
    (Tamils were defeated by Rajapaksas in 2009.)

  • 0
    0

    I wanted some personal information from the Department of Pensions. On 2020-03-03 I applied for information to the Information Officer (Mr. A. Jagath D Dias, Director General of Pensions) by e-mail. As reply was not received, I drew attention by e-mail on 01st June. Again as no reply was received, I applied to the Designated Officer ( Name and details are not available in the Department’s website) on 17th June. For this too no response had been received.
    How can I get the required information?
    Vela

  • 1
    0

    From my experience with RTI, I am opinion, if appeals from the public are handled without fear or favour, it will bring in the desired results. However, it may take over a couple of months to achieve.

  • 2
    1

    Yes, media minister Keheliya can promise to keep the RTI Act intact as well as the body that oversees it. However, when the present nominees’ term expires next year, on what basis will the new appointments be made? Will the new nominees continue to be “independent”?

    • 1
      0

      “Paalukkum Kaaval Poonaikkum Tgozhan”. (The guard of the milk is commodore of the cat.)
      Rambo the rowdy drunkard! Old King, equally rowdy, is trying to keep that guy with him to keep an eye on King. What a unity within this Gangster Royals!

  • 0
    0

    this is funny…a unique state ministers – can I get RTI what they will do.

    State Minister of Development of Small Plantation Crops including Sugarcane, Maize, Cashew, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, and Betel Allied Export Promotion – Janaka Wakkumbura

    State Minister of Paddy and Cereals, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chili, Onions and Potatoes Seed Production and High-tech Agriculture – Shashindra Rajapaksha

    State Minister of Diversification of Coconut, Kithul, Seseme and Rubber Cultivation and Allied Industrial Products, Production and Export – Arundhika Fernando

    State minister for Arrack, toddy; and Buriyani seems to be missing?

    • 1
      0

      Rajash,
      :
      People should be stupidier AND shameless than appeared to be. I dont think their staple food should be RICE and curry, but more into fodder acutally. Who on earth ever thought that they would be given that lot mandate ? But people gave them FINALLY the mandate that they asked for.
      :
      Today
      Gotabaya Rajapakshe – President of the country
      Mahinda Jarapakshe – Premier
      Chamal Rajakshe – Minister for something
      Namal Baby Bastard Son – Minister of sports –
      In that Jamal Khashogii style murder of rugherite Wasim Thadjudeen Namal is alleged to have been complicit- not a single person in that BARBARIC family should NOT be not alleged… however the very same bastard son to be given MINISTRY of sports – srilankens should be scared actually.
      :
      Shashindra Rajaakshe – another ministry for KIRIMATI or something
      Basil Rajakpakshe – is the LEADER of SLPP.
      .
      Dont you think that our sinhalayas the ultra stupid people ? This was the fear our GURU late Rev Sobitha Thero had been predicting at the begining of GOOD governance govt.

      I think not BELARUS who has now been caught by EUROPEAN press for their dictatorship but SRILANKA should be on the world press to have paved bitch s sons of MEDAMULANA family to return to power and ruin the nation again.

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