Sri Lanka to pass RTI legislation

journalist penSri Lanka may soon have its own RTI (Right to Information) law. Called the “Right to Know Information” legislation, the proposed law is part of the new regime’s 100 Days Programme.

On Thursday, the present coalition government, comprising members of the two principal parties, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) along with those from a few other parties such as Jathika Hela Urumaya and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, completed its 100th day.

Announcing the government’s decision to introduce a draft bill in Parliament, Rajitha Senaratne, Cabinet Spokesperson and Health Minister, told a media conference that the Cabinet, at its meeting on Wednesday night, approved a proposal presented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. President Maithripala Sirisena was also present.

While a national-level commission would be established, there would not be any such body at the level of provinces, the Minister said, replying to a query. To another question whether the clauses of exemption were so wide as to defeat the spirit behind the law, he replied in the negative and said what was now done was to come up with a Cabinet document.

Once the Bill had been presented, Parliament could make amendments and suggestions from outside might also be incorporated. “We are quite open,” he said. Recalling the discussion at the Cabinet meeting, Mr Senaratne said Mr Wickremasinghe told him that media organisations had been taken into confidence while preparing the draft Bill.

Electoral reforms

The Cabinet spokesperson said the President presented a draft proposal to the Cabinet, envisaging an electoral system that would combine features of the First Past The Post system and proportional representation (PR). The proposed system would abolish the existing PR system.

At present, two models were under consideration. Under one of the options, the number of members in Parliament would go up from the present 225 to 238 while under another, the figure would be 255. Hinting that “there would be many more formulas,” the Minister added that there would be no reduction in the number of constituencies even though there were adverse demographic changes in certain parts of the country such as Jaffna. He explained how in places such as Jaffna and Kandy, adequate number of representatives could not be found for the given figure of constituencies. To ensure fair representation to minorities in Parliament, the revival of multi-member constituencies had been mooted. (The Hindu)

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