Draft Information Act to be presented to President tomorrow

A new draft of the Freedom of Information Act is due to be presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa tomorrow by Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda.

Under the proposed Act, any citizen, subject to certain provisions, will have a right of access to official information held by a public authority. The right may be denied, however, if revealing the information could jeopardise national security and territorial integrity; endanger lives or the safety of persons; adversely affect Sri Lanka’s relations with any state or international organisation, or constitute an invasion of privacy.

Other information that will not be made accessible includes trade secrets, material that could be prejudicial to the national economy; information relating to the prevention or detection of crime, and personal medical records.

Under the proposed Act, the President and the Ministers are obliged to announce all public projects three months before the projects are launched. These would include foreign-funded projects worth US$1 million and over, and locally funded projects worth Rs. 5 million and over.

A Freedom of Information Commission will be set up, and will comprise three persons of high calibre and proven integrity who have distinguished themselves in public life. Members of Parliament, Provincial Council members and members of a political party will not be eligible. The commission members will be appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council.
The Commission will monitor the performance of public authorities and ensure that the authorities follow due compliance.

More than 100 countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have a freedom of information law, but not Sri Lanka.

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