The Right to Information Commission (RTI), which is the prime appellate and monitoring body ensuring the people’s right to information, suffers from stagnation as it has not been operational since the tenure end on September 30, 2021, making it an inactive body for more than two months.
The RTI Commission in its critical role under the Right to Information law is responsible for hearing matters pertaining to appeals, making recommendations for reforms, issuing guidelines on record and management and proactive disclosure, investigating and prosecuting alleged offences committed and awareness raising.
According to the Information Commission Act, the RTI Commission’s members are nominated by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), civil society organisations, newspaper editors, journalists and publishers.
The Parliamentary Council has reportedly received over twenty (20) nominations in this regard over the past period, and these nominations are supposed to be handed over to the President by the Council, after which the relevant appointments are made.
Upon the Commission’s tenure end, however, no renewal has been made to date.
Below is a press release issued by the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) on the matter:
TISL concerned by delays in RTI Commission appointments
The Right to Information (RTI) Commission, which is the central appellate and monitoring body established under the Right to Information Act of Sri Lanka, is one of the most important independent public institutions in the country today. The Commission is empowered to play a critical role under the RTI law, including hearing matters on appeal, making recommendations for reform, issuing guidelines on record management and proactive disclosure, investigating and prosecuting alleged offences committed and awareness-raising. However, for the past two months the Commission has been unable to function without its commissioners.
The tenure of the first RTI Commission of Sri Lanka, ended on the 30th of September this year. Subsequent to this the Parliamentary Council of Sri Lanka called for nominations from the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, civil society organizations, editors and media persons and organizations of publishers, for the post of RTI Commissioners. The Parliamentary Council is reported to have received over 20 nominations for the Commission appointments.
During a recent Cabinet media briefing, Minister of Mass Media Dullas Allahaperuma speaking to the media emphasized the importance of the continued functioning of the RTI commission and noted that it is the role of the Parliamentary Council to make nominations to the President for the posts and for the President to ultimately make the appointments.
Due to the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, there have been reports of many RTI requests being delayed or rejected resulting in an increased number of appeals to the Commission which will lead to serious delays in citizens obtaining information.
Earlier this year, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) highlighted the importance of appointing independent commissioners to the RTI Commission. The continued functioning of the RTI Commission through the appointment of independent commissioners is an essential safeguard for the constitutionally guaranteed right to information of the people.
Expressing its deep concern, TISL calls on the Parliamentary Council and the President to expedite the appointment of independent commissioners to the RTI Commission, without further delay.