NGOs, media too should be accountable and transparent: President | Daily News

NGOs, media too should be accountable and transparent: President


The need for transparency and accountability not only in government, but, also in Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and the media, was stressed by President Maithripala Sirisena at the International Conference on Right to Information (RTI) held yesterday.

“We all should understand what our duties and responsibilities are in  any position we hold and we know from experience that more often than not, those in power work outside their mandate rather than doing the job they are supposed to do”, President Sirisena who was instrumental in enacting the RTI Act this year said.

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has commented on the activities of NGOs and while as a government, we too have acknowledged the important role NGOs play, we must also note that there are many NGOs that do not function according to the mandate they have been registered for,” President Sirisena said.

“For many governments around the world, the harm caused by certain NGOs have contributed to their instability,”the President said.

The RTI conference will also discuss issues of media development and reform and the President observed that in most instances the level of freedom the media enjoyed depended on the wishes and mindsets of those who owned the relevant media institution.

“The media should ask themselves, how have we guaranteed freedom of the media? While it is important that politicians allow media freedom and governments monitor, government and private media institutions have also got to ensure that this freedom is upheld according to the wishes of the people,” the President said. “Transparency is applicable to all,”President Sirisena added.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya who was the first to introduce the RTI Bill to Parliament in 2001, stated that while Sri Lanka lost the opportunity to become the first country to pass the RTI Bill in South Asia, he was happy that it was at least the last country to do so in the region.

“Six years ago, a campaign called ‘clean hands’ found that close to 30-40 percent of public finances are not utilised for development due to corruption and waste. The RTI thus will help the people know what becomes of their oney,”Speaker Jayasuriya said.

Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka explained that the implementation of the RTI Act would depend on the establishment of the Independent Information Commission and effectiveness of the mechanism to provide information.

The Act gives the government six months for implementation and while countries like Bangladesh and Scotland had taken close to five years for implementation, the Speaker and Minister Karunathilake believed that Sri Lanka could achieve the goal within a shorter time period.

The President however noted that the effectiveness of the RTI would depend on how it is utilised by the ordinary people at the grassroots level. 

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