Sri Lanka’s RTI Commission has called upon Parliament to make public, the List of Members of Parliament who have filed their Declarations of Assets and Liabilities during 2010-2018 in accordance with an appeal filed by a journalist, Chamara Sampath saying that this is not confidential information or information protected by parliamentary privilege.
It has also directed the Parliament to rectify a serious administrative anamoly which enables the Office of the Secretary General, from which are drawn the responsible officers to handle information requests under the RTI Act, to refuse requests saying that it is the Speaker which has that information. The information request filed by journalist Chamara Sampath was refused on the basis that Declarations of MPs Assets are filed with the Speaker.
Dismissing that objection, the Commissioners comprising M Gammampila, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, Rohini Walgama and SG Punchihewa have ruled that internal administrative divisions within the Sri Lanka Parliament, which is the Public Authority under the RTI Act, has no bearing on the release of information which is held, ‘institutionally.’
RTI analysts said to Colombo Telegraph, that this Order will operate as a compulsion also for members of the sitting Parliament to make their Declarations public. Currently, only a handful have declared their Declarations. This has become a matter of public ridicule given that such documents are publicly released in other countries, including in India.
In 2019, the former President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena appealed to the Court of Appeal against an Order of the RTI Commission to release the Declaration of Assets of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Attorney General is appearing for that appeal which is still pending in the Court.
Sri Lanka’s state run media, the Daily News has carried the Order of the RTI Commission as a page one story, pointing to the fact that the Commission had ruled that the RTI Act prevails over an old (1975) law under which MPs file Declarations to the Speaker.