November 19, 2019
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    ‘Over 70 percent recognise RTI as a key right

    October 16, 2019

    Right to Information (RTI) legislation has reached the pinnacle of success empowering the people within just three years as 73 percent of the citizens recognise RTI as a key right.This was revealed at a function held to mark World RTI Day at the Ministry of Mass Media at the conclusion of a month-long RTI assessment. Survey Research Lanka (SRL) was also associated with the project.According to the research conducted by Survey Research Lanka, 78 percent citizens agree that RTI is extremely important and 45 percent are aware of the existence of RTI.SRL Chief Executive Officer Mihirani Dissanayake said the research was conducted with 2,515 citizens and 200 others who were RTI applicants.

    Secretary of Mass Media Ministry, Sunil Samaraweera speaking at the event highlighted the fact that RTI has helped cleanse society. “Ninety-five percent of government institutions are aware of the RTI and have an information officer to enforce RTI. Instead of an Information Day, we requested a month from the Cabinet to enforce the RTI. With the upcoming elections under the observation of the Elections Commission and the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), we conducted this month-long programme through a transparent process,” he said.
    In case an institution refuses to provide information within 14 days, a committee is appointed to look into this and further action can be taken through the courts. Also, if an information officer is unavailable, the head of the institution has to be responsible, he said.RTI Chief Advisor Nalaka Gunewardene emphasized the fact that within 984 days, over 33,000 applicants have used the RTI. Since its inception in 2016, the Commission has seen an increase in the number of appeals to the Commission, with deeper appreciation among citizens with regard to utilizing the RTI.
    He said from individuals seeking information on personal land-related matters to collective groups coming together to seek information on development projects in the public interest, the Commission has observed a wide range of information requested across diverse public authorities. There were 230 appeals received in 2017 and in 2018, there was an exponential increase in the number of appeals, resulting in 800 appeals.
    By October 2019, the Commission received more than 1,200 appeals and has issued more than 1,200 orders releasing information.Eighteen institutions that did not comply with the Commission’s judgements are to be referred to the Court of Appeal, Gunewardene said. When questioned regarding how RTI relates to the non-governmental institutions, Sunil Samaraweera said that all the institutions that have any links with the government are responsible for providing information. The Ministry of Mass Media also felicitated 10 organizations and individuals who used the RTI for public welfare, among whom were four journalists.




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