24 October, 2017

Severe Bottleneck In Utilising Govt. Funds For RTI Commission

Following the issuing of a Media Statement by the RTI Commission of Sri Lanka carried by Colombo Telegraph, CT contacted the Ministry of Media yesterday regarding Statement’s information that the Commission still had only ‘skeletal staff’ five months after its establishment. The Ministry of Media is the nodal agency responsible for implementing RTI in the country. Officials at the Ministry admitted that there is a bottleneck in getting the funds through.

Mangala Samaraweera – Minister Media

The Colombo Telegraph learns that though the Commission advertised for a Director General a month ago, the salary approved by the Government for the post was inadequate even for a middle level management post. This has put the Commission into difficulty in recruiting a suitable person for what will be a challenging and difficult task. Only three clerks, one peon and one coordinating secretary serve on the Commission, all of whom are also not sufficiently paid. Requests made to the Government to rectify the situation have fallen on deaf ears.

The burden of coping with more than three hundred and fifty appeals and requests for assistance coming in has therefore been passed to Commission members, who are themselves not resourced properly. CT understands that the forthcoming website of the Commission is only coming into being because it is funded by the World Bank due to the interventions of Commission members.

Chrissy Abeysekera, a lawyer and RTI activist working voluntarily with the London based Sri Lanka Media Law Reform Initiative has been documenting the RTI process. She pointed to this situation being ‘unprecedented’ in the context of an internationally hailed RTI law, which the Government has been quick to capitalize on for its own advantage while not providing for a smooth transition of funds to the RTI Commission.

‘Are these bottlenecks deliberate or part of the normal Government bureaucracy?’ she questioned. 

‘Recently I saw an interviews by a social media RTI activist in a Sinhala online journal where he unquestioningly accepts the claims by the Director General of Information Ranga Kalansooriya some months ago that the Government has ‘approved’ a sum of Rs 76 million for the RTI Commission.’ she said.

Abeysekera pointed out that this is part of an active propaganda effort in posting messages on social media and giving online interviews to hide the truth from the public and cover up the Government’s actions due to juicy foreign trips and trainer positions as ‘RTI experts’ being obtained and channeled through Kalansooriya.

‘People in the know are well aware as to whom I am referring to’ she said.   

‘We have been tracing the way in which the third best RTI law in the world came into being. This serves as a good lesson not only for other efforts in Sri Lanka but also elsewhere’, she pointed out.  ‘What we have discovered is that none of these ‘experts’ actually contributed to the RTI process in Sri Lanka except taking part in trainings from 2015, even though they marketed themselves as having had a key role to play and put forward project proposals by NGOs claiming money for the work.’ she said.      

Kalansooriya’s claim came in the context of a media storm being raised earlier this year that the Commission was being deliberately starved of funds to cripple its functioning. Kalansooriya claimed on twitter that the Government had in fact released the money and thanked the media for raising the issues. These claims were questioned.

Kalansooriya who is now fighting to keep his job as DG, Information Department amidst the ministry shake-up after the Ministry changed hands, has also tried to drive a new media regulatory process. This proposed law tries to force journalists to give up their sources of information through a body which they maintain, would be ‘independent’ and ‘excellent’, similar to the RTI Commission. 

Abeysekera pointed out that this was a good propaganda tactic; ‘praise the Commission but do not give it enough money’ she said.      

The Government has since then back-peddled on the effort to enact a media regulatory framework to the disappointment of its loud supporters who had been banking on more juicy foreign trips under the cover of protests that media self-regulation was ineffective.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    7

    There are so many monks willing to volunteer. Why can’t the government let the monks implement the RTI.

    • 0
      7

      Why GMan-galaya is licking the LTTE -rump. RTI is for LTTE.. Besides, he is finance minister and not the minister for political -reconciliation orr minister for external affiars. Again, that is not his job. He is from Matara and he is barking for Tamils.. Why Matara people are silent on him ?

      • 0
        3

        Here is the fake Jim Softy again. He is a secret LTTEier from Eluwamkulam, collecting intelligence and sending it to LTTE diaspora

    • 2
      0

      Jim Softy
      The President has asked the REligious leaders to work together on a single stage for peace and harmony.
      However have we ever seen these swollen headed , paranoids , hallucinating forever living in their own devious and vicious beliefs and in the process have rewritten Buddha sasana and Lord Buddhas teachings , preaching to the followers saying Buddhism is supreme .Buddha statues are mushrooming in unthinkable places.

      These yellow robes preaches that any other Minority religions are BAD they should never be any where in Srilanka,
      BBS is carrying out the destruction of other religions no doubt as accordingly.
      Lord Buddha never ever was against other religions and religious worshippers.
      Why this kind of hate had been created?? By whom?? No other than the yellow robed men.
      It’s wrong , they re not thinking right!
      All religions are equal , live and let live others, is it not the right path??

      Are the Muslims going round burning Buddhist temples? Are the Hindu priests going round burning Buddhists temples nor the Catholic or Christian worshippers going on the rampage burning Buddhists worshipping places??

      It’s a well known fact yellow robes cannot tolerate any other religions in Srilanka,
      This is the cause of years of blood letting in Srilanka, the superiority complex will destroy them forever.
      The President is asking for help from these Bogey men ! hope he will succeed.
      May be he’s scared stiff to accuse them but asking them for help.
      The whole nation knows who the culprits are for the cause of the long suffering and the curse of this nation.
      Instead of hiding behind false beliefs people should rise and face the truth and the reality.
      Any one can believe in their own beliefs ! No religon is superior to others.
      Come on we are ‘in the watchful eyes of the UN HCR and other’s, were not in the dark ages now!! They cannot hide under the false belief and propaganda that they’re protecting the religion!!
      Come on this is 21st century isn’t it???

      • 1
        0

        Analyst, why are you engaging with morons like softy-brain? Nothing works for these people but if their Beliatte leader comes back. I was in the middle of flood relief in Mirijjawilla and the people were cursing all politicians, even their once beloved Man-hinda.

        I am angry, angry, angry at what fools these politikkas make of all of us. This is a sick country.

        • 0
          0

          If somebody was cursing King Mahind, probably he is a Muslim or a Christian

  • 0
    2

    Two hundred people are dead, thousands of acres of lands, houses are destroyed, Lakhs of people are devastated because their lives are shattered. Mangala Samaraweera became selfish, as usual, and he is paying the dues for LTTE rump. what a fked up society Sri lanka is. Sri lankan stupid voters vote these people again and keep them in the parliament to behave like this. What a waste of resources.

  • 0
    1

    RTI commission is a farce….undoubtedly this bogus Office has been setup just to appease the International community and claim credibility on the transparency of the Govt.

    Since setting up this Office no one has been successful in obtaining any important information…the most important queries such as Govt transactions… Educational Standards of MPs and their Assets…the Office has declined to provide the information but however has informed of the possibility to appeal within 2 weeks…

    The Govts in the Country since 1948 – to date have been acting so deceitfully on all its activities that this Office is certainly making their lives uncomfortable…they are all great actors in the presence of the public as their motto is ” let us hunt seperatly and eat together ” ….As such they will starve it so that it will be a heaven for FLIES and for those that need RIP…

    The 80% of the Sri Lankan population is not intelligent as such they do not know the importance of this Office….IF they are intelligent the present 225 M….P….. in the parliament would not have had a chance of getting appointed ….so the Govt wants to cripple it…otherwise what is the difficulty in providing LKR 100.0 mn when they very recently approved a supplementary estimate of LKR 350.0 mn to purchase Luxury Motor Vehicle…

    Besides all most all the Buddhist people of this Country seeking eternity through Dhamma and they firmly believe in the cycle of KARMA that Lord Buddha has preached.. as such they are not bothered what these people rob …for they are sure of those who rob going to hell…

    Look at the pathetic condition of the people who have been displaced due to the recent floods ….

    • 0
      0

      Reading this response makes me want to laugh! This is a typical example of the stupidity of Sri Lankans. Even after a good law is passed, you have no idea on how to use it. You are mixing up the Ministries who are required to provide the info and who may have refused with the Commission which is an appeal body. The two weeks time applies to the Ministries which are Public Authorities. So you have mixed everything up.

      We have been monitoring the RTI Act and see this kind of stupidity everywhere. Get your facts correct. If the COMMISSION in fact refused, tell us where and how.

      This kind of advanced law was not meant for the Sri Lankan ‘modayas’!

  • 0
    2

    Half of the stupid Buddhist voted for Maithri. That is why we have this problem. We should consider the half of Budhists voted for Maithri as a terrorists too

  • 2
    0

    Jim shitty is running amok , unable to control himself.
    Come on truth always hurts

  • 0
    2

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  • 1
    0

    So all the idiots, racists and sycophants of MR have come out with completely off topic nonsense. Anything good that this government does is often stifled in some way shape or form. Most often it is the money. The culprits are appointees who have served the Rajapakshes and managed to stay on due to the stupidity of the current lot or they are plain incompetent or as is pointed out in this article have their own cunning agendas and know how to play the game. A few good people carry on in spite of the obstacles. These are the unsung heroes. The politicians however, need a good hiding for letting this situation get so out of hand and stupidly keep on going without fixing the problems. One famous excuse for inaction is “We will get taken to the FCID if we do this” why keep such individuals on without sacking them then and there. The FCID exists to investigate crooks. The barbs against Mangala are simply because he will clean some of this mess up and has already made a start. That irks the scoundrels who want the undermining to continue so that their cherished wet dream of bringing back their hero the biggest scoundrel ever to rule this land back to power.

  • 0
    0

    76 million rupees is very little money. If it is not available something is wrong with the political will to make the RTI Commission and RTI work . How about approaching the EU or USA with a request for 500,000 Euro or USD? Small amount for them when they talk about good governance for us.

    The RTI Commission exists for appeals and advice. The major work is for the Information and Designated Officers at the Public Authorities not for the Commission.

    Unfortunately I have heard of some cases where the IO and DO don’t bother to send any reply. In other cases the reply has been a demand for information on who made the request and why!

    I have read that all the District and Divisional Secretariats have appointed the necessary officers but almost none of these are available on line. I have found many home pages that have not been updated during years and many DSs don’t even have a page.

    • 0
      0

      Very sensible comment, Lone Wolf. At least some people have sense to see the issues properly. Lets not give up hope. RTI is a difficult process. It will take time to work.

  • 0
    0

    CT,

    10 days is not enough to comment articles. Some others share my opinion.

    I would like to be able to quote other comments and the articles like I did before.

  • 0
    0

    There are so many military personnel who are not doing anything after the war. They could implement the RTI. This is also good for national security and good pretex for remaining in the north to Budhicise them

  • 0
    0

    It will take a while to figure out as to how to bugger RTI.

  • 0
    0

    It will take a while to figure out as to how to bugger RTI.

  • 0
    0

    As must as Sri Lanka’s RTI law is being studied as to how it was drafted and how it became the third best in the world, there must be a good analysis done of how a stupid Gvt and silly NGOs running after publicity defeated whatever chances of the law being implemented well.

    Chrissy – we hope that these monitoring efforts will be published!

    Thank you for your forthright comments!

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