Public access to vital govt. documents

Public access to vital govt. documents

rtismallDailyMirror

Vital documents relating to public utilities, urban development and environment assessments will be open to the general public on request, in a move by the Urban Development Authourity (UDA) and the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLRDC) aimed at creating transparency in its functions.

Under this programme the public will be able to access government documents such as research on water quality, code of practice on canal reservations reports on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), Initial Environmental Examination (IEE),

Development plans for lands in Wedamulla, Mudun Ela and Wattala Gunasekara Mawatha as well as other documents relating to lands and marketing division, scientific development from drainage and reclamation division and the legal division from the SLRDC.

Those who are in need of such information should contact the relevant officers at the UDA and SLRDC, however such officers are yet to be appointed.

Documents such as parliamentary acts, EIA’s IEE’s, reports of projects approved by the UDA, judgments and orders issued where the UDA was a party and any proposal which would alter the zoning of any urban development area. However, there are certain documents such as building plans, permit applications plans and applications for extensions, case records and all agreements covering contract lease, rentals and MOU’s will be restricted to the public and only the relevant owners or residents of such land and attorney’s at law responding to such persons have access.     

“These restrictions are enforced to ensure that no one misuses this access”, said Access to information in the Urban Sector Director Rauna Rajepakse.

“We decided to issue these as directives as it would take longer if a law was to be made and passed in parliament”, she said.

This programme which is done under the direction of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardane will be monitored by the PLIF along with other government officials.

World Resource Institute Director Lalanath de Silva said that it was important the public had access to such information to ensure that they made informed decisions, they participate in the decision making process of the country and to ensure greater transparency.

“We are the only country in Asia that does not have a law for right to information. We along with several other African countries have only made the attempt for such a law while half the countries in the world already have them. Sri Lanka is one of the only countries that does not give its citizen the right to information”, he said.

He also said there was a big gap between law and practice in the country and that the government should make policies which the people want.

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