Problems caused by neglect of basic principles in drafting RTI law

Posted on April 22, 2015  /  0 Comments

The most current draft of the the Sri Lanka Freedom of Information bill that is about to be presented to Cabinet has removed Parliament and Cabinet from its purview. They were included in the definition of “public authorities” who were bound to respond to information requests by citizens in the previous draft (at that time the Law was called the Right to Information Act). This appears to miss the essence of RTI, as I point out in a guest column in the Daily Mirror today:

Freedom of Information (also known as Right to Information or RTI) laws are based on Principal-Agent theory. The public (the Principal) has delegated the task of running the country to the state, comprising officials as well as political authorities (the Agents). But the public (the Principal) cannot adequately monitor the Agents because of a radical information asymmetry. RTI seeks to remedy this asymmetry, at least partially, by giving the public the right to obtain information on what is going on in government.

The latest draft of the law has deviated from this basic logic and removed the public’s right to seek information from the Cabinet and the Parliament, while including within the scope even non-governmental organizations that do not receive any funds from, or act on behalf of, the government.

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The more I engage with legal and Constitutional matters, the more I am convinced that Sri Lanka needs to pay serious attention to the quality of legal education.

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