COLOMBO: The long-awaited Sri Lankan Right To Information (RTI) bill was presented to parliament on Thursday, the day on which Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe turned 67.
Demand for such a bill was there during the Presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, but he had ruled out its introduction, telling a visiting Indian Minister: “ There will be no Right To Information Act so long as I am President!”
However, Rajapaksa’s successor, Maithripala Sirisena, made it a point to include it in his “Yahapalanaya” or “Good Governance” manifesto for the January 8, 2015 Presidential election.
Last year, the cabinet approved an Right To Information framework, but the bill was not introduced. Even now, its final shape is unclear as some of the Provincial Councils have suggested amendments.
When passed, a citizen can ask for information on anything in possession of a public authority, even if the query is contrary to an existing law. But the query should be on a public activity and of public interest. Information of a personal nature can be given only with the written consent of the affected party.
Disclosure can be denied if it will undermine national security, it was said.