RTI Commission warns of legal action if Act is intentionally disregarded

The Right To Information (RTI) Commission has warned of legal action if the RTI Act is intentionally disregarded.

In a statement to mark four years since Sri Lanka’s RTI Act was operationalised, the RTI Commission noted its increasing concerns regarding delays on the part of public authorities in providing information under Sri Lanka’s RTI Act.

Director General of the RTI Commission D.G.M.V Hapuarachchi said in the statement that notices of warning of prosecutions to public officers assessed as responsible for deliberate delays and bypassing of official duties under the Act are now being sent under the seal of the Commission.

Though the number was few in this regard, it was observed that the Commission will not hesitate to resort to its statutory power of activating the criminal legal process if the RTI Act is intentionally disregarded or flouted.

Positive policy changes and proactive disclosure on the part of public authorities subsequent to four years of the RTI Act being implemented were welcomed.

These included the open publication of lists of beneficiaries of public funds under the Samurdhi programme and other public welfare initiatives.

It was noted that policies, directives and circulars that impact on the general public are also being made available to citizens and that municipalities and other state entities engage in greater open disclosure of information on projects.

Even so, proactive disclosure as envisaged in the RTI Act and regulations made thereunder remain to be strengthened specifically where the use of public funds is in question.

Meanwhile RTI Commission said it was heartened by the inclusion of Sri Lanka as a promising case study in the 2020 global report on the status of Right to Information regimes worldwide, titled ‘From Promise to Practice…’ presented to the General Assembly by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“We note the reference in that report to the fact that, the Commission’s Orders, during 2017-2019, reflect disclosure of information in full or in part in 85% of appeals. This is in line with the Commission’s determined stand of protecting the principle of maximum disclosure which underlines the RTI Act,” the RTI Commission said.

The RTI Commission said it hopes that hard won gains of the RTI during the past several years are preserved as well as enhanced as Sri Lanka proceeds on her Right to Information journey. (Colombo Gazette)