Release RTI Draft document for public scrutiny & social dialogue in all 03 languages before presenting to Cabinet
Posted on November 23rd, 2015

Decent Lanka 2015

Sent via e-mail & fax
2015 November 23
To
HE the President
Maithripala Sirisena
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo
&
Hon. Prime Minister
Ranil Wickramasinghe
PM’s Office
Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha
Colombo 07

Release RTI Draft document for public scrutiny & social dialogue in all 03 languages before presenting to Cabinet

Latest media reports say a draft “Right to Information” (RTI) Bill is to go before the cabinet of ministers next week and thereafter would be presented in parliament for adoption as a Bill.

We had access to a draft copy of the RTI that is in circulation within very small circles in Colombo, said to be the final draft cleared by the Legal Draftsmen. Perhaps this is what the cabinet of ministers would approve. This draft for now is only in English language.

Leaving aside our concerns for now over some issues in this draft copy and its contradiction with the 19 Amendment as this draft is not officially released to the public, we wish to register our strongest protest in how the whole process of law making under your government, elected on the promise of transparent and accountable governance is very secretive and extremely selective in whom it shares information with.

We note with much regret the government’s apparent strategy of using few Colombo based funded organisations to have its version of draft legislations stamped as “endorsed by civil society”. While the 19 Amendment faced similar fate and ended up as a poor package of contradictions, this did happen pre August 17 elections with a draft 20 Amendment proposed for “election reforms” as well. While these NGOs enjoy the monopoly of having access to such drafts in organising discussion forums for handpicked few of their own within their funded projects, they too abide by the government’s requirement of “keeping doors closed” for the general public.

Equally or far worse is the fact that your government does not honour the Constitutional provisions under Chapter IV, 18(1) to (4) that guarantee the right of the people to have them in all 03 languages;

Sinhala and Tamil as official languages and English as “link” language. This violation of language rights we observe, is now a permanent habit. It was so with the 19 Amendment. Even elected members in parliament were denied the right to have copies of amendments in their preferred language, with English language drafts forced on them at the last minute to rush the 19A through. This leaves your government as deliberately avoiding social obligations in a multi linguistic society, with the Ministry of National Dialogue used for cosmetic effects.

The Opposition leader, more because he was elected to represent the Tamil people has the duty and an obligation to demand all drafts in Sinhala, Tamil and English, a responsibility he seems to forfeit. With the actual opposition in parliament including the JVP and the Opposition Leader also compromising in allowing such serious deviations from democratic practise, your government has taken advantage to effectively deny the people from participating in the process of governance and law making in a functional democracy.

We firmly believe, electing a parliament does not make people obsolete in the governing process till the next election. Transparency and accountability in governance in fact means people are allowed democratic participation in the governing process. Sadly with your government, even information on the Right to Information Act is withheld from the public instead of engaging the public in developing the draft.

We therefore demand from you as President and PM of this “Yahapalanaya” government to immediately place the final draft copy of the RTI in public domain and in all 03 languages using a dedicated website as well that can update development and giving adequate time for a serious dialogue in society, before it is taken up in the cabinet of ministers.

Thank you.

Yours in democracy,
Signatories ;
Neville Ananda Attorney at law
Sujeewa Dahanayake Attorney at Law
Muditha Karunamuni Social activist
Kusal Perera Journalist
Anton Marcus Trade union leader
Srinath Perera Attorney at law
Amrit Muttukumaru Public Interest activist
Cc.c
01. Hon. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs & Media
02. Hon. Leader of the Opposition
03. All media
Contacts –
Attorney at law Neville Ananda – 0777876811
Attorney at Law Sujeewa Dahanayake – 0777324062

One Response to “Release RTI Draft document for public scrutiny & social dialogue in all 03 languages before presenting to Cabinet”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    I find this funny.

    MOST of these people ACTIVELY CANVASSED for My3 during the election. Why do they have to write OPEN LETTERS? Just tell My3 to do it.

    IF My3 does it, say WELL DONE.
    IF My3 FAILS to do it, ACCEPT YOU were WRONG in supporting a LIAR.

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