CHRI welcomes the initiative of the Government of Sri Lanka of drafting legislation in order to guarantee access to information to the people. This is a timely initiative because most of the countries in South Asia have adopted similar laws with Pakistan taking the lead in 2002 followed by India (2005), Nepal (2007), Bangladesh (2009), the Maldives (2013) and Afghanistan (2015). The adoption of information access legislation is an important step in the direction of engendering a regime of transparency in public affairs in any country. Where information is accessible to people in a timely manner, they can with engage their government to demand their rightful entitlements and participate in the decision‐making processes relating to their economic and socio‐cultural development. A strong access to information law can serve as the means with which civil society and the media hold public authorities accountable for their actions and combat corruption in an effective manner. Information access laws have the potential to transform the practice of democracy from representative government to participatory government where decision‐making is based on people’s informed consent. Such measures for deepening democracy prevent the alienation of any segment of the citizenry thereby reducing the possibility of eruption of violent conflict within society.
CHRI has examined the draft Bill which can be found here in detail from the perspective of international best practice standards as well as its own experience of advising several governments on drafting such legislation and monitoring their use and implementation in India and other countries of the Commonwealth. The draft Bill contains most of the components of access legislation that are now recognised internationally as indispensable for engendering a regime of transparency. The provisions of the draft Bill do in fair measure reflect essential principles of access legislation such as maximum disclosure including an obligation of voluntary disclosure of information on the government, minimum and narrowly defined exceptions that are linked to harm tests and a public interest override clause, time‐bound and inexpensive access procedures, an independent body to adjudicate information access disputes, a regime of sanctions for contravening the provisions of the draft Bill and reporting and monitoring requirements. Please read the detailed analysis in the attachment.