Sri Lanka's parliament votes in favour of right to information bill

Colombo:  Sri Lanka's parliament on Friday voted in favour of a Right to Information (RTI) bill which had failed to get approval for several years. The RTI bill was unanimously passed in parliament without a vote being taken at the end of the second day of a two day debate, Xinhua reported. Parliament on Thursday began debating the bill which was submitted after some amendments were made from its original form. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the amended bill was submitted to parliament after extensive discussions with several political parties and civil society. He recalled that since 2004 several attempts were made to bring the RTI bill to parliament but those attempts were unsuccessful. The prime minister said that right to information is a right of the public and so the current government took the initiative to push for it. "The failure to access information led to several issues over the past 10 years," he said. The prime minister said that if access to information on public institutions was available to the public in the past then some public institutions could have been saved from suffering losses. Media Minister Gayantha Karunatillake said that President Maithripala Sirisena had given an assurance when he took office last year that the RTI bill will be brought to parliament. He said the presentation of the bill in parliament was a historic occasion for Sri Lanka and the region. The government said the RTI bill is expected to make changes in a moderate way to uphold good governance and the state functions. The government also affirmed the bill will allow the public to get information on public officials and will be an important feature for the government to be responsible at a higher level.