During a ceremony held at the Homagama Divisional Secretariat, President Ranil Wickremesinghe launched the online issuance of passports and reaffirmed his commitment to safeguarding freedom of expression. Notably, he highlighted the repeal of the criminal defamation law, a progressive step that sets Sri Lanka apart from other countries in the region.
President Wickremesinghe underscored the importance of the proposed Electronic Broadcasting Regulatory Commission Act, which aims to provide recourse to individuals who have suffered harm due to electronic media. He emphasized that this approach is employed worldwide and has instructed the inclusion of guidelines from the United Kingdom’s electronic media regulations in Sri Lanka’s implementation.
Furthermore, the President announced an ambitious digitization initiative to be implemented across all government sectors. The objective is to establish comprehensive facilities where the public can conveniently access all essential documents, ranging from birth to death, in a single location. As part of this initiative, passport applicants will benefit from a simplified online application process available through 51 Divisional Secretariat offices spanning all 25 districts of the island.
Expressing his vision at the event, President Wickremesinghe stated, “Today, we embark on the process of issuing passports through an online system. Concurrently, our nation’s digitalization efforts are rapidly advancing. Our goal is to implement digitization in all sectors of the country in the coming years.”
The President further addressed concerns and assured the public that freedom of expression would not be compromised. He highlighted the need for mechanisms to address harm caused by the media and emphasized the importance of providing relief to affected parties. President Wickremesinghe instructed the Attorney General to align the proposed regulations with UK standards to benefit from precedents and ensure fair decision-making.
Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles, who oversees the Immigration Department among other institutions, spoke about the progress made in streamlining public services. He emphasized the successful elimination of lengthy queues at the Immigration Department through the implementation of digitization. Minister Alles also unveiled a new fee structure for passports, offering expedited processing options to enhance convenience for applicants.
In the future, plans are underway to establish a comprehensive service center at the Suhurupaya building, providing individuals with a centralized location for obtaining all necessary documents, from birth certificates to death certificates.