Written by Zulfick Farzan
09 Mar, 2022 | 3:49 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st); Sri Lanka’s Minister of Youth and Sports Namal Rajapaksa said that the Personal Data Protection Bill is paramount for the country’s digitization program.
He was speaking at the second reading of the Personal Data Protection Bill in Parliament on Wednesday (9), after the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Technology which met on Tuesday(08), agreed to present the Personal Data Protection Bill to Parliament for the second reading.
The Personal Data Protection Bill intends to provide for the Regulation of Processing of Personal Data; to identify and strengthen the Rights of Data Subjects in relation to the protection of Personal Data; to provide for the designation of the Data Protection Authority; and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, according to the Parliament.
Minister Rajapaksa told the house that some countries failed in their digitization programs mainly due to the flaws in their laws.
He said it is paramount to prepare a legal framework for the government’s 30-month digitization program, and in the absence of such a legal framework, the children of Sri Lanka will not be able to reap the benefits from it.
“There were reports of data wiping at state institutions recently,” said the Minister stressing the need for a legal framework for data protection, to prevent such incidents.
He said the Personal Data Protection Bill is just one legislation on data, adding that many more are to be introduced, such as the Cyber Security Act, and the Falsehood Act.
“If personal data is being given to a state entity or a private bank, or even a telecommunication company, the Personal Data Protection Bill would ensure that the data is only used for the designated purpose, and no more,” said the Minister.
However, Transparency International Sri Lanka in a statement on Tuesday (8) said the Data Protection Bill should not be passed until serious concerns are addressed.
Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) remains deeply concerned about three key areas in this Bill including the impact on certain rights and freedoms if enacted in its current form.
TISL’s three key concerns on this Bill are as follows.:
Severe impact on journalism – The Bill does not recognize ‘Journalistic Purpose’ or data processing in the exercise of freedom of the press or freedom of expression as a condition for processing data.
Data Protection Authority has wide powers, and is not independent – The Bill designates a ‘government controlled’ body as the Data Protection Authority. The Authority does not have sufficient safeguards against political interference or attempts at diluting its powers and functions.
Impact on the Right to Information – In its current form, the provisions of the Bill prevail over the provisions of any other written law, including the Right to Information Act, in case of any inconsistency.
TISL Executive Director Nadishani Perera commenting on the matter noted that “If enacted in its current form, the Data Protection Bill could become a well-meaning law which could yet be abused. The Bill could be used to create a chilling effect in the media and among whistleblowers which would be a blow to Sri Lanka’s democracy.”
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