The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Coalition’s third regional meeting of the Asia-Pacific group took place earlier this month.
The meeting brought together 28 participants including representatives from the Asia-Pacific region, members of the Coalition Coordination Committee (CCC), and colleagues from the Coalition’s Vienna Hub. The discussions held during the regional meeting mainly focused on Access to Information (ATI).
Deputy Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) Sankhitha Gunaratne, who is also a member of the Coalition Coordination Committee (CCC) of the UNCAC, spoke during the meeting on defending the right to information and the Sri Lankan experience.
Ms. Gunaratne shared TISL’S work to promote the Right to Information (RTI) in Sri Lanka in the pre-enactment, enactment and post-enactment phases of the law, adding that RTI requires defending at all stages.
She recounted how during the implementation of the RTI Act, TISL served on the RTI Advisory Task Force in the Ministry of Mass Media, supported the RTI Act in the Supreme Court, acted as a watchdog on the appointment of the first RTI Commission, and was also the first to launch a trilingual website providing clarity on how the RTI could be used.
Post-implementation, she stated that TISL’s usage of the RTI Act as a tool to fight corruption, was a powerful example to popularise the law, while also engaging in widespread awareness-raising across the country. TISL has also assisted over 2000 individual citizens to file RTIs and relevant appeals, while at the same time, scrutinising any moves to dilute the RTI Act’s impact through later legislation.
She highlighted that even when the law is in place, there may be a possibility of a stark difference between the spirit of the law and how it is being implemented.
Ms. Gunaratne highlighted the potential of the RTI law to reset the power imbalance between citizens and the state and in this context, emphasized that RTI can normalize the confrontational dialogue between the citizens and the State.
As a civil society organisation with the mission to contribute towards the eradication of corruption, TISL has been an ardent advocate for the use of the RTI mechanism to reveal and prevent corruption.
*The original article on the meeting appeared on the UNCAC Coalition website and can be accessed through the following link