Sri Lanka to have its own Right to Information Act
The Sirisena government in Sri Lanka is likely to introduce a Constitutional Amendment bill next month to fulfill its promise of sweeping political reforms and bringing out transparency in administration. As a part of the 100 days program of the new regime, a law similar to the Right to Information (RTI) Act of India is planned to be introduced on April 22 The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. as the 19th amendment of the Lankan Constitution.
The bill was initiated in 2010 and had been pending for long with the erstwhile Rajapaksa government amidst calls by the activists to get it passed early. It has been said that the proposed Right to Information Act of Sri Lanka has its inspiration from the Indian counterpart passed in 2005. The draft gives the right to a ‘citizen’ to file an application under the RTI Act, and the definition of which is wider - “citizen” includes a body whether incorporated or un-incorporated, if not less than three fourths of the members of such body are citizens. There are few exemptions to disclosure and the draft says - “No restrictions shall be placed on the right declared and recognized by this Article (Article 14A), other than such restrictions prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society , in the interests of national security , territorial integrity or public safety”
After militancy and the subsequent period of rule of Rajapaksha where allegations of high-handedness of his family members, the Sri Lankan government move to empower the citizens is likely to herald an era of real democracy. Political reforms leading to strengthening of institutions and freedom of speech should lead to real and long lasting peace in the island country.