24 May, 2017

Speaker ‘Missing In RTI Action’

A full five days after the Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya had returned to Sri Lanka after a brief trip overseas during the weekend, his Office is yet to respond to references made to a ‘ruling’ by the Speaker by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the President in denying requests for the Assets and Liabilities Declarations of the head of the executive and the head of the legislature lodged under Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Act.

The requests had been filed by a non-governmental organization Transparency International, Sri Lanka (TISL). TISL itself has been besieged by RTI requests filed to the organization in respect of allegations of institutional mismanagement and corruption by a coalition of trade unions numbering over forty who are part of the Coalition against Corruption.

These long standing allegations involve asking for an inquiry report by JC Weliamuna and Lakshan Dias regarding a secretive inquiry after which whistleblower employees of TISL had been ‘got rid of’ and ‘favouritism’ allegations against the TISL top management in awarding lucrative assignments to individuals with conflict of interest ties (ie friends and colleagues of the TISL’s management) without a proper procurement procedure. The information requests are pending before TISL.

As Colombo Telegraph previously reported, TISL had filed in the Office of the Prime Minister for the Prime Minister’s Assets Declaration even though this was not the proper Authority to receive that application. The Public Authorities in custody of the PM’s Assets Declaration is the President (through the Assets law), the Speaker (though the practice and procedure of Parliament) and the Commissioner of Elections (at the time of coming forward as a candidate).

Regardless, the proper course of action would have been for the PM’s Office to have transferred the request to the Speaker. However and without the Information Officer of the PM’s Office responding to TISL as required by law, the appeal (Designated) Officer had replied, denying the info request and citing ‘a ruling’ of the Speaker.

Under the RTI law, the Speaker cannot give any ruling. The power to hand down orders is exclusively in the hands of the RTI Commission. The Colombo Telegraph learns that this reference to a ‘ruling’ by the PM’s Office was a mistaken reference to a request by the Speaker to transfer the request to him. But this confusion has been made worse by the Office of the President also responding in a similar way. And no clarification is yet forthcoming from the Office of the Speaker regarding the so-called ‘ruling’ even though a full one week has lapsed since.

The Colombo Telegraph is raising this matter in the public interest. Regardless of the fact that the early operation of RTI, a long fought for right in Sri Lanka, is being muddied by NGOs and ‘indecent’ operators holding out to be ‘journalists’ to get publicity for themselves, the highest State institutions of the land need to abide by a duty to put their RTI affairs in order.

Related posts;

Info DG Claims RTI Commission’s Funds Released, But Status Still Unclear

RTI Comes Back To Bite Transparency International Sri Lanka Chapter

Colombo Telegraph Challenges CPA Under RTI Act – Colombo NGOs Yet To Appoint Information Officers!

Cash Strapped RTI Commission To Be Flooded With Appeals And Training Requests

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2
    Mr Obeyesekere surely knows that this act is one of those enacted more to impress foreigners and foreign institutions than it is for local use. Nobody was fooled into thinking that all you have to do is roll up and request nicely for information that those in power would like to keep well away from smart-arse prying eyes. The last thing that our politicians and their kith and kin want is busy bodies peeping into their ‘family’ wealth and the income streams that feed them. Mr Obeysekera, prepare for the run-around; good luck in your endeavours.
  • 4
    1
    Helping hambantota family declaring assets? Hell will freeze over.
  • 0
    0
    Let us face it – our politicians are very unwilling to show possession of unaccountable wealth – that which is earned/taken possession of by unlawful means – to the citizens, whom most of them pretend to “serve”. In a country like India, the prime minister of a state was sentenced to long term in jail for possession of assets far beyond the means of that person. Our courts have never prosecuted politicians and laymen for such a reason. Only when this happens, can corruption be minimised – eradication will be very difficult – during our lifetime. The RTI is a big sham.
  • 1
    0
    You admit that the TISL had misdirected the requests and the authorities have mismanaged the replies! No wonder!! RTI Act gives a right to every citizen to have access to information held by a public authority. However the Act says that such right will be refused if the information relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. I am uanble to connect how one’s declaration of assets and liabilities which are of personal nature will have relationship to any public activity or interest! But I can see that providing such information will result in unwarranted invasion of the privacy of that individual. RTI Act in the present form does not permit this to be done! George
    • 0
      0
      George, you are absolutely correct. This is one publicity gimmick. All these NGO and other ‘indecent’ kakkas looking for easy headlines and more money for their projects. If RTI gets caught to these kakkas, it will never survive..
  • 0
    1
    RTI only serves political objectives. This has brought to strengthen the Right To Conceal political corruption. The Declarations of Assets and Liabilities of Politicians are not private. The Politicians are paid by taxpayers. They are answerable to the citizens of this country. People have a right to know whether the Politicians are accumulated wealth by various other means other than they are legally entitled to. At a time, where there are a number of high profile corruption dramas are going on and various allegations for robbing from the public coffer have drawn public attention, the people have more right to know than before. If there are any hindrance for the public to know the truth, it is the duty of the Government to remove those obstacles by amending the RTI Act and keep their ‘secret wealth’ open to the public. Why do they have to hide behind the Speaker, uttering nonsensical excuses?
  • 0
    0
    If you want to find corruption you should have requested the declarations of the MPs of the JO not the PM or the president. This request is an act of deceit aimed at slinging mud by misusing the RTI for political vengenance against the architects of this law. It is the typical disgracefull crafty Sinhala mentality to engage in this type of nastiness. There is now a marked tendency of this web site to ignore stories about JO corruption and go after key government figures like Ravi K. It is as if you wait salivating for a chance to tear these people down. It is shamefull and disgusting.
  • 0
    1
    Why the President and the PM is so unwilling to make there asset declarations public, if they have accumulated their assets in a justifiable manner?. Or is it because they wanted to obstruct creating a precedent so other politicians can comfortably CI seal their ill gotten wealth?. The people have the right to know the assets of their elected representatives. If you don’t want to declare it resign and be a private citizen.

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