With a view to create wider awareness on the Act to Right to Information (RTI), an orientation programme was organized by Caritas Sri Lanka at the SEDEC Auditorium on 9th March 2017. The session was conducted in the English language.

A group of nearly 65 persons consisting of Caritas Diocesan Coordinators, civil society leaders, priests and religious, academics, peace activists, and members of the Caritas National Centre staff participated in the half-day programme. One of the three Commissioners to the RTI Commission, Ms. Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena and Ms. T. Mathuri, Legal Researcher attached to the RTI Commission were the distinguished resource persons at the programme.——The Director of Caritas National Centre, Rev. Fr. Shanthi Kumar Weliwita welcomed the participants and expressed his optimism in the new RTI act, especially as a tool in fulfilling justice to the poor and marginalized. If properly implemented, the RTI will ensure that the government remains transparent and accountable to the people of this country, he said.

The Chairman of Caritas Sri Lanka, Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, moderating the session stated that there is a great lack of awareness among ordinary people of the laws enacted in the parliament. In that context the initiatives by Caritas Sri Lanka to create greater understanding of the RTI is an important step.

Ms. Pinto-Jayawardena who was involved from the inception in the enactment of the RTI law in the country, making the opening remarks commended the Parliament of Sri Lanka for approving the important Act, which has been rated 3rd best in the RTI Global Ranking. (Mexico and Serbia are in the first and second places.) She further stated that the RTI law is meant for the ‘poor’ and encourages ‘The Spirit of Voluntary Disclosure’ rather than ‘Disclosure by Challenge’.—

She said Sri Lanka would have been the first country to have this law if it had been accepted by the Parliament back in 2004. In comparison to the Indian RTI Act, Sri Lanka’s has minimum exemptions to the law, therefore the reach of the Sri Lankan RTI is broader.

Ms. T. Mathuri, Legal Researcher  to the RTI Commission presented a comprehensive and lengthy analysis of the salient features and elaborated on the exemptions created under the Act.

The Symposium ended with a Q & A session and was appreciated by all.

Mr. Yu Hwa Li, Senior Executive Manager of Caritas Sri Lanka-SEDEC proposed the vote of thanks. He also stated that organizations like Caritas should adopt practices of proactive disclosure, whilst urging others to implement the elements of RTI act in their own institutions.