The government must empower us, the people, to have the Right to Information, This is a right in keeping with the letter and spirit of ‘Participatory Democracy’. In the first place the fact that only a very few of those who contested elections at all levels in the past declared their assets serves to indicate that unless there is a huge public demand this laudable initiative may be dead in the water. These politicians who are indulging in savage dogs-fights to be of service to us! (that certainly is a sick joke, for their love of themselves transcends the iota of love they have for the country). They seem to have much to hide; they do not seem to want to declare their assets; Why? The answer seems obvious; because they who are already corrupt or do not wish to have their corruption completely exposed, once they start making money after they achieve their goal of being elected to Parliament. Is this not obvious? Our Electoral system which was created as a part of the Authoritarian system of Governance in 1978 made the District the Electorate and to contest in a District one needs millions – and that as we all know is where the corruption starts.
" there are 70 countries today which have legislated, giving their citizens the right to information and this includes India. This right has made for better and more accountable governance and has also curbed corruption, so what could be an acceptable reason for our country too not joining this democratic club "
To return to the subject of our Right to Information, there is indeed some confusion with regard to this matter of ‘Freedom of Information’. It has been stated that in a case the Supreme Court, read the right to information into article 10 of the Constitution, which states that every person is entitled to freedom of thought and conscience and Article 14 (1) a, which states that “Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech and expression including publication”. I, a mere citizen, cannot for the life of me, understand how one can “read into this article” that the citizen has a right to information when all it states is that a citizen is entitled to freedom of thought and conscience and freedom of expression, I do wish some knowledgeable person would explain to us, the uninitiated, how such a construction came to be placed on this article. There has been no clarification anywhere as to how a citizen could seek information on any matter he or she is interested in. Yes, as to whether a citizen could, of right, demand information on an unclassified matter of public interest, remains to be seen.
There is no doubt that information is available in the form of Administrative Reports and there have been instances where the public has been requested to come forward and submit their views at Parliamentary Committee Hearings and give evidence at Commissions of Inquiry, but this is not the same thing as a legal Right of the public to demand information, for instance relating to the assets of any public personality or the amounts spent on public projects. This is what we mean by the Right to Information.
" Openness in government or transparency is not something which our politicians and bureaucrats wish to see given legal effect, they prefer a culture of secrecy "
Openness in government or transparency is not something which our politicians and bureaucrats wish to see given legal effect, they prefer a culture of secrecy. Kath Nobel once in a brilliant article published sometime back, stated that there are 70 countries today which have legislated, giving their citizens the right to information and this includes India. This right has made for better and more accountable governance and has also curbed corruption, so what could be an acceptable reason for our country too not joining this democratic club.
It is of course not a mere matter of passing the law, but we the people must be able to see it being implemented on the ground. In the first instance the people and our society leaders should take the initiative to mobilise the people across party lines for this is a national issue. I have no doubt that the JVP would support the measure and could mobilise their supporters to make themselves heard. The Buddhist clergy in particular, not only because of their numbers across the country but also because they should read into the first precept the positive obligation to ensure that politicians do not take what does not belong to them and rob the state. This obligation or vow must certainly extend to ensuring that there is no corruption. The JHU has also an important role as their principles accord with this initiative. The clergy of other religions should also support this worthy cause. All social organisations such as the Rotary Clubs, the Lions Clubs, the Trade Unions and NGOs should also climb on board the campaign to acquire for the people of this country this most important of rights, the Right to Information. Last but not least the media should play a major role, for it is they who would benefit the most in the short term.
" There has been no clarification anywhere as to how a citizen could seek information on any matter he or she is interested in. Yes, as to whether a citizen could, of right, demand information on an unclassified matter of public interest, remains to be seen "
The time is NOW, for it is only now, in the run up to various elections that we the people are truly sovereign; for we abdicate after the election is over. Let us therefore make the politicians, who are pleading for our votes, and the political parties, promise us, the people, that they would empower us by giving us the Right to Information which would enable us to also participate in the governance of our country in a meaningful way.
Let us also address a few other important matters. The Tamil diaspora which has turned out to be a plague and the wretched Tamil Nadu politicians can be countered by our reaching out to our Tamil brethren and empowering them to decide on their own destiny and to also have a stake in the decision making at the centre. We don’t need the 13th Amendment to achieve this. We can and must have our own home-grown solution as repeatedly stated by our President. We must build a one single Lankan nation and let us in the first instance take the Tamil language to all parts of our country (the Tamil youth who have been rehabilitated could be recruited as teachers for this purpose) and let us also start a People’s Movement for Moderation based on the the principle shared by all four religions in our country ---the Middle Path or Moderation and build ‘ONE SRI LANKAN NATION’.
President Rajapaksa should take the initiative, now that he has brought peace to our country after thirty years of war, which no other political leader of our country was able to do, to sort out the problems of our minorities, wipe out extremism in all its forms Two other initiatives of importance are, the Equal Opportunities Bill to reach out to the minorities and the Administration of Justice Law which favoured the litigant and also cut out the costly delays there is in administering justice; these initiatives must be championed by civil society in the interest of our country. The President needs also to restore the Rule of Law and restore the independence of the Judiciary and the Election Commission at the earliest, he would then have justifiably earned for himself the right to be nominated by us, the people of our country and even India, for the Nobel Peace Prize and would go down in our history as the greatest political leader we have ever had, considering the messy situation that exists in our country today.