The information request made under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by the polls monitor, People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) to the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting to identify MPs holding dual citizenships has been rejected on the grounds that the department is not in a position to provide information that falls under the personal and private category.
PAFFREL had also received a reply from the Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dassanayake to the letter addressed by them to Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and copied to him, requesting to obtain affidavits for MPs regarding the same issue. The response claimed that this is a matter that should be resolved through courts.
PAFFREL Executive Director Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Morning yesterday (17) that his organisation had received a rejection letter from the Department of Immigration and Emigration in regard to the issue of dual citizen MPs and noted that a RTI appeal had therefore been made to a higher official at the Department of Immigration and Emigration.
“It is a rejection. We got it on Wednesday (16). They have sent us a letter claiming that they are not in a position to give us any information under the privacy and personal information category. On Wednesday, we sent our appeal to a higher official in the same Department. Thus, we have appealed to the Controller General of the Department,” he added.
According to the RTI Act, we have to first make a request to the relevant officer, an appeal to the higher official in the same institution and failing which, it will be further appealed to the RTI Commission, he noted.
Hettiarachchi said: “We received a reply to the request we made to Speaker Abeywardana and copied to Dassanayake. The reply by Dassanayake states that it could only be done through legal proceedings.”
He further noted that in order to take legal action, details regarding dual citizenship are needed and pointed out that MPs’ details in regard to citizenship cannot be categorised as personal when they are representing the country.
Hettiarachchi further noted: “My argument is that information regarding the citizenship of MPs cannot be categorised as personal. They are representing thousands of people. Whatever their action or reaction would affect the entire country. They cannot behave like individuals. If they want to be individuals, they should not engage in politics because they are representatives. Their actions could even affect our future.”
On 31 October, Department of Immigration and Emigration Controller General Harsha Illukpitiya told The Morning that he will take his time to reply to the RTI requests received with regard to the citizenship status of MPs. Illukpitiya said that there are a few RTI requests recently received in regard to the MPs’ citizenship status, adding that he would take time to reply to these requests in line with the law.
“There have been a few RTI requests recently. I think that a few of them are concerning MPs. We have received them, but have not yet replied to anyone. We have more time, so we will take the time and do it. There is a legally recommended period of time to reply. I will utilise that time,” he added.
Meanwhile, PAFFREL on 25 October wrote to Speaker Abeywardana and the Department of Immigration and Emigration via a RTI request in regard to the issue of MPs who are dual citizens, since the newly adopted 21st Amendment to the Constitution does not permit such Members to be represented in Parliament.
Hettiarachchi earlier told The Morning that his Organisation had written to the Speaker to take action in regard to MPs holding dual citizenship, while requesting the RTI officer at the Department of Immigration and Emigration to identify the MPs who are dual citizens. Once the information regarding MPs holding dual citizenship is obtained, it will be publicised for them to resign, failing which, legal action will be taken, he added.
“We have included the names of all 225 MPs in our RTI request and requested details of those holding dual citizenship. Once we get the information and publicise the details, I think that the MPs who have dual citizenship will decide to resign. In the event they fail to take the decision on their own, we will have to get a court order. We are awaiting evidence to take legal action,” he added.
(Curtesy Sunday Morning)