RTI law won’t apply to info communicated to OMP in confidence - lawyer

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Right to Information (RTI) Act wouldn’t apply to specific information communicated to the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) in confidence, a constitutional affairs expert told ‘The Island’ yesterday.

The attorney-at-law emphasized that Section 15 of the proposed Bill dealt with the issue of confidentiality.

Therefore, often repeated assertion that the OMP Bill clashed with the RTI law didn’t reflect the actual position, the attorney-at-law, who had been involved in the OMP process said.

According to him, except information protected by the confidentially clause, information could be obtained from the OMP on the basis of the RTI Act.

Responding to a query by ‘The Island’, the expert, while referring to the right to information being vested as a fundamental right in the 19 Amendment, stressed that the OMP Bill/Act wouldn’t undermine the RTI law.

The Constitutional Council has called for nominations to the five-member RTI Commission Nominations close tomorrow (Aug. 11).

The attorney-at-law said that the OMP would certainly help estimate the number of disappeared persons during the conflict and also establish the circumstances under which such incidents took place. The spokesperson admitted that authorities had received many bogus claims over the years pertaining to disappearances. The OMP would provide Sri Lanka with an opportunity to examine the contentious issue of wartime disappearances closely. The process would help Sri Lanka to identify those who had gone underground here or abroad.

Director General, Information Department, Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya yesterday told ‘The Island’ that every effort would be made to maximum possible utilization of the RTI law. Kalansooriya alleged that an attempt was being made to depict an inconsistency between RTI law and the OMP Bill.

The government introduced OMP Bill on May 22, 2016 and gazetted on May 27, 2016 in accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1 adopted on Oct 1, 2015. The OMP is among four mechanisms scheduled to be set up to address accountability issues both during war and post-conflict periods.

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