The government is attempting to suppress civil society organizations under the pretext of amending the Voluntary Social Service Organizations (registration and supervision) Act, Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) and Centre for Human Rights (CHR) said issuing a joint press release.
The draft bill to amend the act, which had been passed by the Cabinet last week, is essentially a legislation to have authority over these organizations and to suppress Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that are critical of the government. The amendment changes the structure (even the Preamble), the practices and the agreed norms of the existing act in a bid to paralyze civil society organizations that do not do the bidding of the President, Prime Minister and ministers.
If an act is being amended, the amendment must not destroy the basic principals of the act. However with this act no CSO will be able to operate without the patronage of the government. This will also give legitimacy to the National Secretariat For Non Governmental Organizations, which has no constitutional or legal basis for its existence, and allow the government to control CSOs through a Director General of National Secretariat For Non Governmental Organizations.
The National Secretariat For Non Governmental Organizations has made these amendments after consulting several CSOs that are affiliated and associated with one particular political party. The draft has also been penned ignoring the proposals by Nimalka Fernando, Sudarshana Gunawardana and Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, who acted as consultants of the advisory committee to the National NGO secretariat. The Secretariat has not even held a discussion with NGOs that are a part of this advisory committee. Thus it is evident that National Secretariat For Non Governmental Organizations has acted in an unethical manner.
CSOs that range from funeral assistance organizations to corporations, must remain organizations of the civil society and not be tools of the government.
Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon
Executive Director – CaFFE and CHR