(The contributor, Rajendra Wijesinghe is the first citizen of Sri Lanka who obtained information from government through the provisions of the Right To Information Act)
This is to share how I feel on Right to Information (RTI) of being a requester to the Urban Council Panadura under RTI Act which came into effect on February 03, 2017, on the following working day. My appeal to the commission on similar request has been taken for first ever In-person hearing by the RTI Commission I was able to contribute to the history of RTI in Sri Lanka since the urban Council has violated the law of the country.
The country needs laws to regulate the society; to protect its people; to enforce rights and to solve conflicts. Laws of the country are also rules. But all the rules are not laws. Rules usually apply to specific groups or at specific times. The law applies to everyone, all the time. Urban Council must be aware that the Act is a law. Knowing that, they have violated the laws of the country. Imagine such circumstances; we are open to all manner of abuse.
Simply, Right to Information makes the Government more accountable to the Governed. In line with RTI, the government made an open call for the public for an active participation. On contrarily, we have observed at the onset “Media Displays by certain members of the Government” inconveniencing the public official. In fact such undue acts do not last long. However, the message to the society through such activities is unfavorable, which would decrease the values of the Act.
Still, I am beginning to learn what Right to Information can do for us. My initial step was to obtain information from the Urban Council, Panadura over a matter of public concern where I was successful in obtaining information and convincing authorities through the information obtained. My subsequent step pending at RTI Commission against Department of Agrarian Development (Kalutara District Office), is where I opine to have reasonable grounds to believe that the information has been destroyed or misplaced. Next attempt with the Urban Development Authority (Kalutara District Office) is to disclose me the reason to arrive at a decision which affect to a part of the civil society including myself. I am on the move through different ways of rights to information in concern to a single issue of public concern.
Described myself, I am not a representative of the civil society but a part of the civil society. The way that I feel in these circumstances directly impacts to the pulse of the civil society. When I feel something deeper I use to write my wife, who is currently on the opposite side of the globe. “Usha, my assumptions are absolutely right. The undue earth filler is ably assisted by corrupt political authorities, by corrupt public officials and by corrupt law enforcement authorities. It was an enormous challenge for me to look through this atmosphere so as to find a solution, which will benefit for the generations to come. This is the beginning of another episode in the land that you and I still call our home.”