The Right to Information Bill was unanimously passed with amendments in Parliament yesterday. Mass Media and Parliamentary Reforms Minister Gayantha Karunathilake read out the Amendments to the Bill at the Committee Stage also incorporating some of the Amendments proposed by MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena and JVP MP Vijitha Herath.
After the Amendments were agreed, the Bill was passed unanimously around 4.15 p.m. as no member called for a division. As the presiding member announced the House of the passage of the Bill, MPs of both sides thumped on their desks to express their pleasure.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was also present at the time of the adoption of the Bill.
MP Vijitha Herath proposed to remove the exemption on “overseas trade agreements” but Minister Karunathilake said the government would bring in a separate Bill for that purpose in the future. Accordingly the Clause was agreed without a revision. Similarly, the exemptions on “Attorney General or any officer assisting the Attorney General” were also passed without an Amendment following the government’s promise to bring in a separate Bill for that purpose.
A clarifying clause was included to the Bill on the request of the Joint Opposition that the content of the Bill does not affect the Parliamentary privileges to obtain any information.
The Act comes into effect immediately, but its implementation requires about another year.
Only about seven JO members were present in the chamber at the time of the passing of the Bill. The long awaited RTI Bill was presented to Parliament by Minister Karunathilake on March 24. It was moved for the second reading debate by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday. Two days had been allocated for the debate on RTI.
The introduction of RTI Act was a key election pledge of President Maithripala Sirisena and his government.
Sri Lanka is the last country in South Asia to adopt RTI law. The two-decade long campaign of Civil Society and Media activists finally came to fruition with the adoption of the historical piece of legislation yesterday.