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Sri Lanka: Parliament must adopt promised Right to Information Bill

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 18 August 2015.

UPDATE:
It has been confirmed that the ruling United National Party (UNP) won the Parliamentary Election this week, now able to form stable government after 8 months of minority rule. Wickremesinghe's centre-right party won 106 of parliament's 225 seats in Monday's [17 August 2015] general elections, while Rajapaksa's United People's Freedom Alliance secured 95.


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As it becomes clear that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has retained his premiership as a result of yesterday's election, ARTICLE 19 urges his new government to adopt the Draft Right to Information Bill, as promised in the previous parliamentary session.

"This election result is a clear signal that the Sri Lankan people want an end to corruption, and instead more effective, efficient and responsive governance. This must include the Right to Information bill. Sri Lanka should join the rest of the region and adopt an effective law as soon as possible," said Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19's Executive Director.

"Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) and President Sirisena's United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), together with other parties, promised in January 2015 to adopt a right to information bill in the first half of the year. However, before the bill could be adopted an election was called. Now that Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have won their public vote of confidence in their policies, they should fulfil their promise and become one of the last remaining states in the region to ensure that their people have a right to information," Hughes added.

ARTICLE 19 reviewed the draft bill in February and May 2015, and met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in May to discuss the bill's shortcomings as part of a post-election media freedom mission.

Yesterday's election result will prevent former-President Mahinda Rajapaksa's from re-entering government as prime minister. Rajapaksa's government oversaw widespread violations of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, with journalists being attacked, hostile takeover of media outlets, and activists facing harassment.

A map of states detailing right to information laws is available on the ARTICLE 19 website, and ARTICLE 19 will be releasing a comprehensive report on the right to information in Asia in September.

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