The Right to Information Bill (RTI), one of the cornerstones of President Maitripala Sirisena 100-Day program, is effectively dead as far as the current Parliament is concerned, the government has conceded.
When contacted regarding the status of the bill, Minister of Public Administration, Local Government and Democratic Governance and Buddha Sasana, Karu Jayasuriya said he did not believe that the draft bill could be tabled in Parliament before its dissolution.
Pointing out that the government had to shelve initial plans to table the bill in Parliament as an ‘Urgent Bill’ after protests from the Opposition, Jayasuriya said he now expected it might take up to five weeks before the government is in a position to present the bill in Parliament. “However, it is very likely that Parliament will be dissolved before then,” he lamented. As such, the RTI Bill will likely have to be resurrected by a new government after the next general election.
The government has also made it clear that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution will take precedence above all else and that Parliament will be dissolved immediately after it is passed, though dissolution may happen even before that if it comes to a point where obtaining the required 2/3 majority becomes impossible.
The minister noted that he was one of those who had continued to champion this bill and that he had even raised the matter again at last week’s Cabinet meeting.
He put the failure of not being able to pass the RTI Bill squarely on sections of the Opposition, who he accused of sabotaging its progress.
“We can’t even have an agreement on the Constitutional Council (CC), making it impossible to establish independent commissions such as the Elections Commission and Police Commission,” he said. Jayasuriya said functioning of the CC was being hampered as there is still no agreement on the three civil persons who are due to be appointed as its members. “We initially proposed to constitute the CC with five civil persons, but they (Opposition) objected to that as well and insisted on its majority being comprised of Parliamentarians. Even after that, it is sad that the three eminent persons who have been nominated continue to face objections,” he said.