Week 1 of RTI in Sri Lanka: 5 cases
When we asked the public what information they would seek through RTI, almost a third of them referenced some form of corruption by public servants; for example asset declarations, irregularities in tenders, salaries and perks for ministers. Since February 3rd, some high profile RTI requests have indeed been in this domain of interest. Here is a round-up of five ways RTI has been used in its first week in Sri Lanka
1. Land-grabbing: 71 families intervene on paddy land grabbing in Kunjukkulam
- 71 families from Kunjukkulam have filed RTI application to investigate illegal land grabbing of 200 acres of paddy lands by the Forestry Department.
- 2. Ministerial corruption: Minister Ranjan Ramanayake files RTI, says everyone should use
Ranjan Ramanayake requested details of the bar permits, petrol sheds, sand permits, shop spaces at airports, and land taken from sanctuaries that are owned or held by members of parliament, local and provincial council members, and chief ministers. Mr. Ramanayake was one of the first MPs to file a RTI request. As of his filing, 100 permits have been cancelled in Divulapitiya. Mr. Ramanayake is yet to receive his fulfilled application.
3. Public Servants’ asset declarations: Transparency International pressures PM and President
Good governance watchdog Transparency International (Sri Lanka) has filed for asset declarations from the Prime Minister and President. Executive Director Asoka Obeysekere believes that this provides ‘the two highest offices of the country an opportunity to show leadership in ensuring the need for RTI Act compliance’.
4. Land rights: activist seeks information on evictions and LLRC
Civil Society activists from the Centre for Policy Alternatives have filed inquiries into the human and property damages caused by the war. A report had been carried out by the Census Department in 2013 but the report was never released. Senior Researcher Iromi Perera was told by the Census Department that the report had been handed over to the LLRC but when she approached the LLRC, the commissioner had no idea about it. Ms. Perera consequently filed the RTI request with the Census Department by emailing the Information Officer, whose details were made available on the department website.
5. Transitional Justice: Women from Batticaloa seek information on the disappeared
Over a dozen women have submitted RTIs in Batticaloa to seek information on missing loved ones. Their applications were submitted to the District Secretariat, the provincial and district police headquarters, the Human Rights Commission and the prisons department. At many of these public authorities, the women themselves had to educate the public officials on the Right to Information.
6. Economic abuses: Monk uses RTI to uncover irregularities of Kuliyapitiya vehicle factory
Ven. Ittekande Saddatissa Thera intends to file RTI applications with the Board of Investment and a certain Public Trustee to uncover why land belonging to this Public Trustee was allotted to a private company to create a vehicle plant. Information he will specifically request relates to: concessions allocated to the private company and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that the project brings in.