Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) notes with concern the delay in the appointment of the two remaining members of the Right to Information (RTI) Commission by President Maithripala Sirisena. Three members of the Commission – Mr. Mahinda Gammanpila, Ms. Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, and Mr. S. G Punchihewa – received their appointments from the President on 30 September, while Mr. N. Selvakkumaran and Justice Saleem Marsoof declined the appointment.
TISL on 7 October 2016 urged the Constitutional Council to make recommendations for the remaining vacancies to the President without delay, in accordance with the RTI Act. The Constitutional Council proceeded to make these recommendations to the President over three weeks ago. However, the President has thus far failed to make these appointments, causing an unanticipated delay in the rollout of the RTI infrastructure.
The RTI Commission is responsible for a large part of the duties under the RTI Act – including the hearing of matters on appeal, monitoring the implementation of the law by Public Authorities, making recommendations for reform, issuing guidelines on record management and proactive disclosure, investigating and prosecuting alleged offences committed and awareness-raising.
The Act requires that the Commission should mandatorily consist of five members. The provisions relating to the Commission came into immediate effect with the enactment of the law. In order to function at its optimum efficiency and to be a representative body with a rich diversity of opinion, it is important that the Commission should have its full membership.
The Government has promised to be RTI-ready by Independence Day. TISL notes that information officers have been appointed across several Public Authorities. However, the Commission needs to be fully constituted and prepared to commence its work speedily, with its staff, rules, guidelines and processes in place. In this context, the remaining Commissioners must be appointed immediately in order for the Commission to commence its work. Any further delay in making the remaining appointments could cripple RTI implementation.
The President has in the past committed himself fully to the passage of RTI. The government has gone further by including RTI implementation as one of the twelve international commitments that the Government is obligated to fulfill as a part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which will be subject to international review.
In view of the far-reaching role of the Commission, and as a demonstration of the commitment of the Government to its mandate of transparency and accountability, TISL calls on the President to make the remaining appointments to the RTI Commission immediately.