Letter signed by the director/ registrar of Secretariat "reiterate" that NGOs should stop such "unauthorized activities" with immediate effect. (Photo: Sureka)
Sri Lanka bans press conference, workshops and press releases for NGO
Second Edition (NIDAHASA News) Defense ministry have issued orders to all NGOs in the country preventing them from conduct press conferences, workshops, training program for journalists and disseminating press releases.
A circular issued by the National Secretariat for NGOs, which operates under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development asks all NGOs to refrain from such activities as they are "beyond their mandate."
Letter signed by the director/ registrar of Secretariat "reiterate" that NGOs should stop such "unauthorized activities" with immediate effect.
Renown activist Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said the circular was a direct threat and challenge to civil society and to Sri Lanka as a functioning democracy.
Saravanamuttu, who heads of Centre for Policy Alternatives claimed that the regime is authoritarian to the core.
“The chilling effect it intends on the freedom of speech and expression and on the freedom of association, confirms that this regime is either unwilling or unable to comprehend the basic requirements of democratic governance and that it is authoritarian to the core,” Saravanamuttu said.
"It is not NGOs, but the defense authorities themselves have acted beyond their mandate", Lawyers Collective said.
Activist attorneys J.C. Weliamuna and Lal Wijeynayake, who convene the Lawyers Collective says defense ministry have no legal authority under any statute to control the freedom of speech and association of citizens who act collectively through civil society organizations.
Defense ministry is headed by president's powerful brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gotabaya, the most powerful defense secretary country had ever seen after the independent, is known for his disfavor of free media and civil movements. He is also been accused for indirectly igniting recent religious clashes in addition to serious war crime allegations thrown by several local and international bodies. However, president's younger brother, sometimes in an angry tone, denied the charges against him and his army.
Ruling Rajapaksa regime, which usually sees NGOs as an enemy, often accuses NGOs of backing what they call "foreign conspiracies" against the county. Many right activists were arrested or harassed. Several recent workshops organized by Transparency International were forced to cancel due to the pressure from military and pro-government groups.