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‘People show high interest in receiving information under RTI’

Sri Lanka College of Journalism Director and RTI Task Force Member Shan Wijethunga said that about 1,500 applications are sent to the relevant authorities every month to get information under the Right to Information Act,

He was addressing a workshop organised by the Finance and Mass Media Ministry at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel yesterday to develop an RTI Public Outreach Campaign and Resource Centre in Sri Lanka.

Citing India as a success story of RTI implementation, he said that about 4,800 RTI applications are filed every day in India seeking information on matters of public interest.

He pointed out the RTI could be used as a tool to keep tab on good governance and correct the Government where necessary.

The right of access to information held by public authorities is a guaranteed fundamental right of any Sri Lankan under 19th amendment to the Constitution. Parliament adopted the right to information Act No 12 of 2016 (RTI Act), which gives the legal framework for access to information held by public authorities. The RTI Act came into the force on August 4, 2016.

Sudarma Karunarathna said that giving the right of access to information would allow people to participate more in matters that affect the public life. She said the RTI training courses should focus on the Act as a fundamental right and its purpose.

The RTI unit assigns staff to establish and maintain its official website, the resource centre and the help desk. The resource centre acquires reference materials, training modules, literature on experiences from other countries.

She said that this strategic implementation is divided into nine interlocking goals. They include building institutional capacities, creating conditions to implement the RTI law, training information officers and public officials, streamlining RTI across the public, revising inhibiting laws, fostering proactive disclosure, improving record management, encouraging reuse of public information and raising public awareness.

The Ministry promotes the public understanding on the RTI Act via its website, holding and supporting public events including commemoration of the RTI Day, and taking measures to raise RTI literacy among the students.

It encourages to include the RTI in the university courses on media and journalism while supporting to produce audio and videos on the RTI via outreach campaigns of other ministries to educate people about the RTI. It supports the efforts of civil society organisations to educate urban and rural populations in this regard.

Finance and Mass Media Ministry Additional Secretary Thilaka Jayasundara, USAID Sri Lanka Office of Governance and Vulnerable Populations Director Danielle Reiff, Development Communication Specialist Nalaka Gunawardene, National Media Centre Director Jagath Liyanarachchi and Finance and Mass Media Ministry Director J.W.S.Kithsiri participated.