TISL says RTI on path to transformational impact but challenges persist

Friday, 28 September 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Right to Know Day today has taken on special significance for Sri Lanka since the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) law has enabled citizens to ask crucial questions on how we are being governed. To mark Right to Know Day, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has launched a complete interactive database of the decisions made by the RTI Commission, classified by topic and geographical location, which can now be accessed via www.rtiwatch.lk, TISL’s dedicated RTI website. 

As TISL celebrates Right to Know Day, it said it recognised some of the key milestones of RTI, ranging from citizens receiving redress following RTI requests on corruption within the Vavuniya General Hospital to landmark decisions of the RTI Commission on information disclosure by state-owned enterprises such as SriLankan Airlines. Looking ahead to October, TISL will be concluding its final submissions before the RTI Commission on accessing the assets declarations of the President and the Prime Minister.  

While great strides have been made in using RTI at all levels of public service, be it in the fight against corruption or as a tool to improve public service delivery, citizens continue to encounter resistance and obstacles when exercising this fundamental right. 

Since the RTI Act came into effect on 3 February 2017, TISL has facilitated the filing of 1,457 RTI applications for the public via six RTI hubs in Ampara, Matara, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Trincomalee and Colombo. TISL revealed that success has varied and at times solutions are provided to citizens without the information itself being provided. Whilst this has short-term benefits, it is essential that information flows are established through RTI to ensure its long-term sustainability.   

In addition to training public officials, focus must now be on the strict monitoring of implementation as well. In his statement marking International Right to Know Day, TISL Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere stated: “The impact that RTI has had on governance in Sri Lanka cannot be understated. At TISL we encounter the stories of members of the public who have been able to use RTI to great effect. From accessing public services like waste collection to securing land rights and exposing bribery and corruption, RTI has been a success, with the next phase requiring the timely proactive disclosure of information.  It is only with sustained commitment that RTI will achieve its transformational potential.”