Legal academics called for the appointment of information officers under the proposed Right to Information Bill to be made by an independent body and not by the head or chief executive officer of the public authority or the Public Service Commission or Ministers.
Senior Lecturer at the Department of Commercial Law of the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo, Attorney-at-Law Dr. Prathiba Mahanamahewa said that barriers to the Right to Information, such as the one contained in provisions in Paragraph 6:1:3 of Chapter XLVII of the Establishment Code must be removed.
The provision states that a Ministry Secretary or a Head of a Department may exercise discretion with respect to the release to the public of information that may be of interest and value to the public and that no information even when confined to statements of facts should be given out where the publication of the said information may embarrass the Government and/or Department and/or Officer and that in the case of any doubt the relevant Minister should be consulted.
Certain provisions in the Official Secrets Act, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Sri Lanka Press Council Act, the Profane Publications Act and the Public Performances Ordinance, which are contrary, inconsistent and conflicting with the proposed Right to Information Bill(RTI) too must be repealed, he added.
“There cannot be limitations and if there are, they must be cleared, otherwise the objectives of the RTI Bill cannot be achieved. In other countries, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is what is used,” he noted.