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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Journalists for Rights urge the President to appoint persons of integrity as the new commissioners of the RTI Commission

image courtesy of RTI Wiki.

Issuing a statement Journalists for Rights urges the President to appoint persons with a history of integrity as the new commissioners of the Right to Information Commission.

The term of the incumbent commissioners of the Right to Information Commission will expire soon, and the President is supposed to appoint a new commission under the powers vested in him by the 20th amendment to the constitution.

The statement in full.

Let us Guarantee the ‘information vaccine’ for all

Under the resolution 38C 57, in 2019, the 74th UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 28 September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.

Although Sri Lanka has achieved fourth place in the Right to Information (RTI) global rating, gaining 131 of 150 marks, the future of Sri Lanka’s Right to Information is in jeopardy now, as some stakeholders perceive.

The 20th amendment to the constitution, passed by the current President Gotabaya
Rajapaksa, immediately after he came to power, undermined many legal reforms to
strengthen democracy and citizens’ rights. However, thankfully, we must mention that the
government has defended the people’s Right to Information.

However, we understand that the authenticity of the independent commissions essential for
uplifting democracy and citizens’ rights is contested by the 20th amendment. For example,
the independence of the Right to Information Act is directly affected because the President
has retained the power to appoint the commissioners. The term of the incumbent
commissioners of the Right to Information Commission will expire soon, and the President is supposed to appoint a new commission under the powers vested in him by the 20 th
amendment to the constitution.

Against this backdrop, we urge the President to appoint persons with a history of integrity
as the new commissioners of the Right to Information Commission.

We want to point out further that we have failed to create a culture of opening information
to people, although Sri Lanka has been internationally recognized in terms of the Right to
Information. We believe that state agencies do not need to wait until a request is made to
open information to the public. Therefore, we urge the government to create a culture of
opening information in the public authorities.

We highlight that the incident of destruction of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority
database is a new type of technology-based threat to the citizen's Right to Information. We stress to the government that safeguarding the people’s Right to Information is a state responsibility. Therefore, the government must conduct an independent investigation regarding data theft and initiate stern action to stop recurrence. We are vigilant about the progress of the investigation and the effort to safeguard public information.

Journalists for Rights emphasize that the Right to Information is part of sovereignty and that the state has the inalienable responsibility of safeguarding fundamental rights, including the Right to Information.

Just as people require vaccination to protect from COVID-19 virus, the Right to Information is essential for the sustainability of democracy and an independent citizen who enjoys freedoms and rights.

Dulan Dasanayaka
K. Sanjeewa
Jayani Abesekara
for Convenors
Journalists for Rights

29.09.2021

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