Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Right To Information Act No.12 Of 2016: A Rare Bright Spot In Our Flawed Democracy

Colombo Telegraph
By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole –March 29, 2017
Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
Failures and Successes
Elected to restore democracy, the interminable postponement of elections on petty excuses is a big blot. Non-progress on reconciliation is best captured by its partner, the TNA, saying Tamils have reached the end of their tether. The independent Commissions have no funds to include all members in the work (Election Commission) or funds but no work or TOR (Delimitation Commission). Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka says the Commissions are toothless white elephants, and that the Audit Commission and National Procurement Commission cannot function for lack of enabling legislation. The Police Commission chairman resigned giving an unbelievable excuse because he could not deliver on account of obstacles.
Even the co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution 34/L.1 which promises “to fully implement the measures identified in the resolution [30/1] of 2015,” is not convincing of our intentions on reconciliation. For, even as 30/1 calls for the prosecution of war criminals with the use of foreign judges and is unfulfilled, the President and PM say there will never be foreign judges. Moreover, the President adds in hot speeches before the Army and Monks that he will never allow “national heroes” who massacred Tamil civilians in defeating the LTTE to be charged.
With that horrible record, there are some notable achievements, however, that fail to get the credit they deserve. One important achievement is the absence of fear. Another is that water-starved Jaffna now has many huge water tanks coming up. As the infrastructure is nearing readiness, it is bickering among us Tamils on whether Water from Kilinochchi can be diverted that introduces uncertainty over water for Jaffna. Water tanks without water would be like our democracy without elections. If that water is refused, the tanks will use seawater desalinated by reverse osmosis, which however will be expensive.
RTI – Towards Open Meetings
The most recent, significant achievement in governance is our Right to Information Act (RTIA). Many countries claim to be democracies but all are flawed. What is important is that we move towards being a democracy. Over 100 countries around the world have RTI Laws, Sweden’s 1766 Freedom of the Press Act having been first. Such acts are usually borne of a thirst for freedom following an era of autocracy as ours was after our shackles were removed in 2015. RTIA empowers us to find out what our rulers are doing by giving us access to government documents.  Our global RTI rating is at third place. Scoring 131 out of 150, we are just behind Mexico (136) and Serbia (135), barely ahead of India at 128 (whose laws were borne of the suppression of information, press censorship and abuse of authority during the Emergency of 1975-77). Surprisingly many Western European countries and the US (83), Canada (90), Australia (83) and China (70) score poorly, well behind Russia (98).
One of Many Water Tanks; this at Naayanmaarkattu will be ready by June
The US has a low score because its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted in 1966 before the world’s legacy of human rights blossomed, and after years of debate over the opposition of President Lyndon Johnson. FOIA emphasizes the devolved nature of power and leaves it to state governments to make their own FOI laws. FOIA has many exemptions. Officials need not comply with requests to do research, answer written questions or create records like lists of statistics. RTIA is far ahead.