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Friday December 9th, 2022

Sri Lanka turning from culture of secrecy to transparency with RTI law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Right to Information Commission (RTI Commission) said it has seen an encouraging increase in appeals by people seeking information under the new law with a culture of secrecy turning to a culture of transparency.

But there was much more room for improvement and commitment by public authorities to disclose information, it said in a statement.

“On the part of the Commission it will strive to ensure that the spirit and intention of the legislature is upheld in a manner that citizens of Sri Lanka would reap the benefits of the right to information to the maximum extent possible.”

The RTI law, enacted two years ago, “has created a paradigm shift in Sri Lanka wherein a culture of secrecy is gradually evolving to a culture of transparency and accountability,” the statement said.

“The increasing involvement of women participation in using RTI for advocacy work is noteworthy.

“Furthermore, the increasing visibility and representation of men and women of low income populations who have shed their inhibitions to come before the Commission is a positive trend in Sri Lanka.”

The RTI commission said that there are success stories that Sri Lanka has experienced during the short period of two years since the law came into effect.

However, it noted that there was “much more room for improvement and commitment by public authorities to disclose information in their possession, custody or control.”

The RTI Commission said it was doing several public outreach programs to inform people about the RTI law in different parts of the island.

It had also published two volumes tri-lingually on selected orders of the Right to Information Commission on the impact of RTI on various subjects.

These range from declarations of assets and liabilities of politicians and bilateral agreements to release of police complaints and environment-related policy and permits.

Since its inception in 2017, the RTI Commission has seen an increase in the number of appeals to the Commission with deeper appreciation among citizens in regard to using the right to information.

“From individuals seeking information on personal land related matters to collective groups coming together to seek information on development projects in the public interest, the Commission has observed a wide range of information requested across diverse public authorities,” it said.

While there were 230 appeals received in2017, in 2018 there was an exponential increase to 800 appeals.

By August 2019, the Commission received over 650 appeals.

Most appeals came from the Western and Southern Province.

The commission said it has issued more than 1,500 reasoned orders, releasing information in the majority of appeals heard before it.

The appeals related to a broad range of issues including corruption in the state sector, responding to disclosure requests for information relating to the government’s transitional justice policies and balancing the right to privacy with the overriding public interest.
(COLOMBO, 22 October 2019)

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Sri Lanka bond yields end higher, kerb dollar Rs370/371

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bonds yields ended up and the T-bills eased on active trade on Friday, dealers said.

The US dollar was 370/371 rupees in the kerb.

“The bond rates went up, however more interest was seen in the short term bills by the investors” dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.90/32.20 percent on Friday, up from 31.25/70 percent at Thursday’s close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 30.30/31.30 percent steady from 30.30/31.00 percent.

The three-month T-bills closed at 30.75/31.30 percent, down from 32.00/32.25 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar unchanged.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.78 and 372.00 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.78 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Dec 09/2022)

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Foreign minister, US ambassador discuss future assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — In a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung discussed ways in which the United States can continue to support Sri Lanka going forward, the Ambassador said.

Chung tweeted Friday December 09 afternoon that the two officials had reflected on the “twists and turns” of 2022, at the meeting.

Minister Sabry was recently in Washington D.C. where he US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A foreign ministry statement said the two officials held productive discussions at the Department of State on December 02 on further elevating bilateral relations in diverse spheres, including the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations which will be marked in 2023.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka also celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British in 2023, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given himself and all parties that represent parliament a deadline to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue.

The US has been vocal about Sri Lanka addressing concerns about its human rights record since the end of the civil war in 2009 and was a sponsor of the latest resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Unlike previous resolutions, this year’s iteration makes specific reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis and calls for investigations on corruption allegations.

In the lead up to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Minister Sabry Sri Lanka’s government under then new president Wickremesinghe does not want any confrontation with any international partner but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

On the eve of the sessions on October 06, Sabry said countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who led the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

These pronouncements notwithstanding, the Wickremesnghe government has been making inroads to the West as well as India and Japan, eager to obtain their assistance in seeing Sri Lanka through the ongoing crisis.

The island nation has entered into a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility of 2.9 billion dollars to be disbursed over a period of four years, subject to a successful debt restructure programme and structural reforms.

Much depends on whether or not China agrees to restructure Sri Lanka’s 7.4 billion dollar outstanding debt to the emerging superpower. Beijing’s apparent hesitance to go for a swift restructure prompted Tamil National Alliance MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam to warn of possible “go home, China” protests in Colombo, similar to the wave of protests that forced the exit of former pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA will be a key player in upcoming talks with the Wickremesinghe government on a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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India smogs out Sri Lanka’s China tower observers


ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built Lotus Tower has halved visitors to its observation deck an official said as dirty air flowing from India triggered air quality warnings and schools in the capital closed.

“Masks are mandatory at the observation deck and roughly around 50 to 60 can go up to the observation deck at a time, time limits have not been altered and still persists at 20 minutes for observation,” the official told EconomyNext.

Prior to the smog, 120 observers were permitted at once to the deck.

However, even after limitations the Lotus Tower has continued to draw visitors, and revenues are coming in, the official said.

The tower built with a Chinese loan by the cash rich Telecom Regulatory Commission has been described by critics as a white elephant that eats the money earned from telecom operators mainly as spectrum fees.

Sri Lanka’s National Building Research Organization (NBRO) said India air heavily polluted with particulate matter was flowing across the island into a depression in the South West Bengal Bay. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)



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