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‘Information officers not conversant with provisions of RTI Act’

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The panel comprising Jagath Liyanarachchi (RTI activist), Karu Jayasuriya (former speaker of parliament), Ashwini Natesan Weerabahu (researcher),  Dumindu Madushan,  Dulan Dasanayake (Right to Life)

Text and pictures by PRIYAN DE SILVA 

Journalist Rahul Samantha Hettiarachchi, an avid user of Right To Information and has submitted over 1150 RTI applications, said that Information officers of government and semi government institutions were not conversant   with the Right To Information Act. He said so as a panelist at the International Right To Information day celebrations organized by Journalists for Rights at the Sausiripaya auditorium on Monday.

 Hettiarachchi said that only 174 of the 1150 RTI applications had been acknowledged but 312 institutions had provided the information requested for. He said he had made 588 appeals to these institutions and 150 appeals had been made to the RTI Commission.

 He reiterated that Information requested through RTI was never provided within the stipulated time and the use of emails at government institutions was very poor.

 Hettiarachchi also said that institutions were delaying providing information with the hope that the Right To Information Act would be repealed.

 Minister of Media Keheliya Rambukwella the Chief Guest at the event said that steps would be taken to encourage government institutions to be more transparent and make available information to citizens before they call for it through RTI. He also said that the proposed 20th Amendment to the Constitution contained the Right to Information introduced by the 19th Amendment.

Lawyer Jagath Liyanaarachchi, a panelist, at the event pointed out that even though Right To Information had been retained in the 20th Amendment the Constitutional Council which named members to the RTI Commission has been scrapped and hence the RTI Commission would be no longer an independent entity as the commissioners were to be named by the President.

Former Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya joined lawyer Jagath Liyanarachchi and researcher Ashwini Nateshan Weerabahu who made a lengthy presentation based on an Analysis of the impact of decisions taken by the RTI Commission between 2017 to 2019 in reducing corruption and increasing transparency in the panel discussion that ensued.

A short documentary by UNESCO on the success of RTI in Sri Lanka was also screened.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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