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Sri Lanka – Citizens Use the RTI Law to Retrieve Government Compensation

Sri Lanka – Ciudadanos que usan la ley de derecho a la información para recibir compensación del gobierno

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After decades of failed initiatives to promote the right to information, Sri Lanka finally enacted its Right to Information Act (RTI) in 2016. The law allows Sri Lankans to scrutinize their government more closely, more effectively participate in decision-making, and exercise active citizenship beyond elections.

Implementation of the new law had significant impact across Sri Lanka, particularly in Koomankulam, a village located in the Northern Province of the country. After the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009, villagers struggled to rebuild their lives. To provide relief, the government announced villagers could apply for compensation. As villagers submitted their applications, they either received letters promising to pay a certain sum or nothing at all from the government. However, things started to change in 2016. Citizens began to hear about passage of the RTI law and its implementation through OGP. Leveraging the new law, villagers began inquiring about the status of their compensation by appealing to their designated officer. The day after the appeal, one villager received a portion of their compensation. The next day more villagers started getting money deposited in their accounts. After fighting for years, the villagers of Koomankulam finally began to get the justice they had fought so long for.

To increase citizens’ knowledge of the new law across the country, the Sri Lankan government launched awareness campaigns, targeting social welfare recipients and women, and began broadcasting a weekly television program that discusses key RTI cases, activists and their accomplishments, and current debates surrounding the new legislation. The campaign aims to strengthen the enforceable right to information and empower citizens to exercise it. Information officers and the country’s RTI Commission are acting to ensure that citizens can lodge requests for information and that the government fulfills those requests.

Like the villagers from Koomankulam, citizens across Sri Lanka have already used RTI to change their daily lives and their communities and hold government officials accountable.

Photo Credit: Transparency International Sri Lanka

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