COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan parliament on Friday passed the Right to Information (RTI) bill without a vote, after the government accepted a few minor amendments suggested by opposition parties.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP and Leader of the Opposition, R.Sampanthan, told Express that the government accepted the Joint Opposition’s demand that parliament be excluded from the purview of the Act.
“There was no difficulty in accepting this as there was never any intention to include parliament within the purview of the Act. But since the Joint Opposition wanted it explicitly mentioned, government accepted it,” Sampanthan explained.
Local government institutions and NGOs getting governmental and foreign funding are included in the Act.
Supreme Court’s Suggestions
The Lankan Supreme Court had suggested some major amendments earlier, when the bill was submitted to it for testing its constitutionality. The court had said that if those suggestions were not accepted, the bill would have to be passed by a two thirds majority. It then proceeded to suggest some amendments.
The Court said that the provision promising information to “members of the public” was too broad because the Constitution referred only to citizens. Private educational institution should be exempted, the Court said, and a provision relating the courts should be redrafted to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The government told the court that its suggestions would be accepted.
Giving Sri Lanka an RTI was a promise of Maithripala Sirisena when he stood as the Joint Opposition candidate in the January 8, 2015 Presidential election. The earlier President Mahinda Rajapaksa had said that there will be no RTI Act in Lanka so long as he is in power.