Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is encouraged by the appointment of three members of the Right to Information (RTI) Commission.
While the Commission has been established by the Act, its membership is yet to be fully constituted, as the RTI Act states that the Commission shall consist of 5 persons.
The intention of Parliament in enacting the RTI law was that the RTI Commission should consist of five members. Even though the Act states that the quorum for a meeting is three, the stipulation of a quorum inherently suggests that the appointment of the full membership is expected. Such appointment would entitle all members to attend meetings. Having only three members would vest sole decision-making power in those members only, subverting the intention of Parliament, and depriving the Commission of its diversity. TISL therefore calls for the appointment of the full Commission.
The RTI Commission is arguably the most important component in the framework set up by the RTI Act. It has extensive powers, including the hearing of cases on appeal, issuing guidelines on record management, fees and proactive disclosure, prescribing fees, monitoring compliance, making recommendation for reform, referring matters for disciplinary action and prosecuting offences under the Act. Its decisions have far-reaching consequences for the exercise of the fundamental right of access to information. It is evident therefore, that the RTI Commission needs to be a dynamic catalyst in the rollout of RTI to the public.
Some of these powers and functions are particularly important in the hands of the first RTI Commission, which has the vital role of setting in place the key principles, mechanisms, templates and procedures that will set the tone for future Commissions to follow.
TISL has been greatly encouraged by the passing of the RTI Act and acknowledges the significant implementation challenges ahead. However, TISL urgently calls for the Constitutional Council to make well considered recommendations in order that the President can make the remaining appointments at the earliest possible occasion, so that the composition of the commission may be regularized. (Colombo Gazette)