The Right to Information is the right of the citizens to obtain the information held by public authorities or institutions that use public funds. Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016, which has been in force since 2016 guarantees citizens’ right to information and it can be considered a positive development in Sri Lankan democracy.
This Act encourages the citizens to participate in good governance and it creates a space to easily detect irregularities, fraud and corruption in public authorities.
According to the Right to Information Act, citizens can obtain information from public authorities such as institutions of the central government or provincial councils, state-owned companies, private limited companies with more than 25% government stakes, companies under contract with a government agency and non-governmental organizations Public authorities must appoint an Information Officer.
Citizens can obtain information either by submitting an information request or by sending an email requesting the information they need. But, no appeal can be made to the Information Commission via email and an appeal can only be made by registered post or personal delivery.
However, as per Section 5 of this Act, citizens cannot request information related to personal matters not affecting public welfare, information harmful to state security and diplomatic relations, confidential commercial information, information that affects the independence of the judiciary, information not decided to disclose related to elections or information related to parliamentary and provincial council privileges. But, as per Section 5(4) of the Act, such information shall be disclosed if the public welfare outweighs the harm caused by the disclosure of such non-solicited information.
But due to some problems in the mechanism of requesting information and appealing, and also due to discouragement by some authorities, the rights of the people to know the information is not practised satisfactorily.
The study conducted by the Right to Life Human Rights Center on the functioning of the Right to Information mechanism in Sri Lanka in 2022 has now been published. Study the Right to Information Act, the procedures from access to information to the appeal process, the independence of the Information Commission and the performances of the public authorities regarding Right to Information in this report.