President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week appointed new members to the five-member RTI Commission after the term of the previous members expired in September this year.
The new RTI Commission is headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Upali Abeyratne and includes former member retired President of the Court of Appeal Justice Rohini Walgama, Athulasiri Samarakoon, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political and International Affairs, Department of Sociology, Open University; former member Attorney-at-Law Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, and Attorney-at-Law Liyana Arachchilage Jagath Bandara Liyana Arachchi.
However, issuing a joint statement today, several civil society groups in the country stated that the newly appointed Chairman of the Commission was unsuitable to hold the position and that the composition of the commission needs to ensure representation of minorities as well as individuals who are natively fluent in all official languages of the country.
Read the full press release below:
The passing of the RTI Act was not only eagerly awaited by the people of the country, it also proved to be a turning point in the social and political situation in our country. The adoption of the legislation can also be seen as a victory for the civil society of the country who strive to create a more a-political system of democracy and governance in the land.
With the tenure of the first RTI Commission coming to an end earlier this year, a new RTI Commission was appointed. The appointments were made by the President based on the recommendations of the parliamentary council, as set out in the 20th amendment to the constitution.
As a group of individuals who have been working to ensure the right to information of the citizens of the country, our attention was focused on the appointment of the new RTI Commission. We signed the earlier press release to indicate that the newly appointed Chairman of the Commission was unsuitable to hold the position. This stance remains unchanged and was the primary focal point of the earlier press release.
We also wish to clarify our stance regarding the composition of the RTI commission. We reiterate that the composition of the commission needs to ensure representation of minorities as well as individuals who are natively fluent in all official languages of the country. The recent resignation of one of the appointed commissioners provides an opportunity for the administration to rectify this situation. Our earlier press release was not meant to be a rejection or protest against the other commissioners that have already been appointed.
We are of the firm belief that in order to uphold the reputation of the RTI Commission as well as to protect the important work that it carries out, an individual of integrity who is well respected in society should take the helm of the commission as it’s chairperson.
– Executive Director, Transparency International Sri Lanka
– Executive Director, People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
– Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives
Dr. Sakuntala Kadirgamar
– Executive Director, Law & Society Trust (LST)
– Senior Researcher, Centre for Policy Alternatives
– National Coordinator, Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV)
– Executive Director, Right to Life Human Rights Centre
– Executive Director, Viluthu
– President, Food First Information & Action Network of Sri Lanka (FIAN)
– National Organizer, National Deshodaya Assembly – ada derana