The Centre for Human Rights on 6 September had the pleasure to host a delegation from the Sri Lanka Right to Information Commission (the Commission) on Wednesday 6 September. The delegation which comprised three Commissioners, the Director General as well as the Legal and Research Officer of the Commission met with the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Prof Frans Viljoen and the head of the Access to Information (ATI) Unit, Dr Lola Shyllon.
After over twelve years of advocacy, the Sri Lankan Parliament in June 2016 adopted the Right to Information Bill which became law in August 2016. The Right to Information Act which is widely regarded as one of the most progressive in the world, came into force in February 2017. Following the appointment of the last two members of the five-member Commission in December 2016, and the coming into force of the Act, the Commission is now faced with the task of implementing its far-reaching oversight mandate.
The purpose of the visit was thus for the Commission to learn from the CHR’s experience in research, training, advocacy and implementation on ATI across the continent, specifically with respect to: challenges in institutionalising best practices on proactive disclosure of information; the application of ATI laws to both public and private entities; and the digitisation of information to address record keeping challenges.
The meeting involved a lively exchange of ideas and information on the progressive normative content of the Sri Lankan Act, and how this compared with the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). Also discussed were the current and possible future challenges to the implementation of the Sri Lankan Act based on the implementation of the existing ATI regime in South Africa. The lessons learnt from across the continent in terms of advocacy and implementation initiatives for the Model Law which have been led by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, with the support of the CHR and its partners, were also shared.
This visit is expected to be the first of numerous information sharing engagements and the beginning of mutually beneficial collaboration between both institutions.