Sri Lankan Government Pledges to Present RTI Bill

24 June 2011

The Sri Lankan parliament has defeated an opposition proposal for a freedom of information, but the government has promise once again to make its own proposal, according to a report in The Daily Mirror.

The bill offered by United National Party Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya was defeated in a vote with 97 members against it and only 34 voting in favour.  Ninety three others were absent. For detailed recapitulations, see The Nation and The Sunday Times.

He attempted to move the bill last September when the government asked him to withdraw it, giving an assurance that a similar bill would be introduced shortly. (See previous coverage.) 

After the June 21 vote, The Daily Mirror reported remarks by Cabinet spokesman, Environment Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa.  

“The government does not hesitate to strengthen the freedom of expression, press freedom or right to information at any stage. We have been discussing the issue of right to information for a long time. The government expects to discuss this with all the stake holders including the media, civil society, and political parties to obtain their point of view and incorporate them in the new Bill,” Yapa told the weekly cabinet news briefing.

“The right to information bill initiated by the government is in the drafting stage. The government would present it in Parliament shortly after consulting all sections,” he said.

“In fact we want to study the Bill and are ready to incorporate non-controversial and progressive clauses in the new Bill. This government is for press freedom and we have never attempted to suppress it. The government has to incorporate few other proposals in the Bill and submit it in parliament shortly,” Yapa said.

The South Asia Media Commission expressed “shock and dismay” at the vote.

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