The Ministry of Justice, Prison Affairs, and Constitutional Reforms has not complied with the order issued by the Right to Information (RTI) Commission to release the report of the one-member committee appointed to investigate the incidents that allegedly took place in 2021 involving then-State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and incumbent State Minister of Plantation Industries Lohan Ratwatte.
The RTI Commission had ordered the Ministry to release the report –which pertains to Ratwatte forcibly entering the Anuradhapura and Welikada Prisons and intimidating several inmates in 2021 – before 23 February with a copy to the Commission.
The report was compiled by retired High Court Judge Kusala Sarojani Weerawardena.
When contacted by The Daily Morning, journalist Tharindu Iranga Jayawardhana, representing the Research Team of the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) which had filed the appeal with the Commission based on which the relevant order was issued, said that the Ministry is yet to release the report. Therefore, he said that the CSR would lodge a complaint with the Commission, requesting the latter to initiate legal action against the Ministry’s failure to comply with the order, under the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, No. 12 of 2016.
The Commission, on 2 February, ordered the Ministry to release the relevant report after hearing an appeal filed by the Research Team of the CSR in Colombo 10. When a request had been made under the RTI Act from the Ministry, requesting the said report, the Ministry had refused to provide the report and had informed that the report was prepared based on a communication received from the Cabinet of Ministers. The Ministry had informed that the report had been forwarded to the Cabinet with a note, but that it had not received any response from the Cabinet on the actions that had been taken in relation to the incidents.
Therefore, the Ministry had informed the CSR’s Research Team that it could not release the report under Section 5(1)(m) of the RTI Act (“the information is of a Cabinet memorandum in relation to which a decision has not been taken”). However, the Commission questioned the Ministry regarding whether this report was a Cabinet memorandum or something else, and a Senior Assistant Secretary of the Ministry then said that the report was a committee report and that it had been forwarded to the Cabinet with a note.
At that time, the Commission stated that Section 5(1)(m) only deals with a Cabinet memorandum and that a note which had been forwarded to the Cabinet does not fall under that provision. Accordingly, the Commission ordered the Ministry to release the relevant report before 23 February with a copy to the Commission.