Constitutional requirements and the upcoming presentation of the 2016 Budget are poised to delay the passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) until early next year,
The Nation learns.
Speaking on the issue, Joint Cabinet Spokesman Minister Gayantha Karunatileka told this newspaper that the RTI will be presented to the Provincial Councils in line with provisions under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution as the bill would apply to them as well. “We expect that the Provincial Councils will forward their recommendations quite quickly. Once that happens, the draft bill will be presented to the Cabinet for approval and when that is done, the bill will be gazetted. The draft bill can be presented to Parliament after a period of two weeks since the gazetting of the bill,” the minister said.
The final draft of the RTI bill is currently with the Attorney General’s Department. Minister Karunatileka stated the AG’s Department was yet to approve the draft but they expected the bill to be green-lighted.
However, Karunatileka, who is the Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media, admitted that the scheduling of the Budget Debate will likely stand in the way of tabling the RTI Bill in Parliament. Under the Parliamentary program for Budget 2016 announced by the government last Thursday (October 15), the presentation of the Appropriation Bill (First Reading) will take place on October 23. The Parliamentary program will conclude with the Third Reading Division on December 22. As such, the possibility of presenting the RTI draft bill to Parliament before the end of 2015 is remote.
Nevertheless, he insisted that the government was not dragging its feet on the matter. “Everything is finalized regarding the draft. However, we will have to take some more time over it as we have to present it to the Provincial Councils,” he stressed.