It has been over three months since the Right to Information Act was passed by parliament. The roll-out process of application acceptance takes place between February and August 2017. Ironically not many people know of the bill or its content, however, the RTI bill is welcome by many as it would open information thus far denied to the citizens.
Dhanushka Rajapakshe is a businessman from central Colombo in his early thirties. He sees the Right to Information as a crucial tool for people to make informed consumer decisions. ‘The right to information means knowing things in detail that certain entities or people refrain from divulging. They do this for marketing purposes but people need to know details. For example, I think it was a great move when the government enforced the correct labelling of sugar content of beverages.’ He believes that the right to information is a necessary measure for any democratic country.
Rasangika Silva and Sachini Vithani are medical officers in their late twenties hailing from Nugegoda and Kottawa. Sachini expressed delight at RTI, concerned about the future of medical trainees in the country. ‘As junior doctors, there are a lot of opportunities that are missed. When I was training, there were so many research reports available that I could not access and then missed out on because I did not know they exist. So this is great for upcoming junior doctors to be aware of information in their field.’
Both Rasangika and Sachini expressed great interest in the RTI Act as a measure to ensure unbiased information access for the general public. ‘Everyone should have the opportunity to know what’s happening,’ stressed Rasangika. ‘People remain unaware because of the one-sided reporting done by media. Even though we are young, we are kept unaware and we need more opportunities to know information. We need personal access to information, not just relying on media.’ Sachini adds, ‘Media is biased and it is our only source of information. With RTI we get to have a free idea of what is actually happening.’
Nineteen-year-old Ronal Fernando from Borella was similarly impressed by the idea of RTI and said it redeemed his faith in the government. ‘I think it is a creative idea! In Sri Lanka, people don’t care: they ignore problems and the government bodies don’t bother informing either. This kind of thing is essential. People will get motivated – even I feel motivated!’