|Under me – Gotabhaya|
New laws to control NGOs
The government is to incorporate new laws to register all not-for-profit or non-profit organizations (NPOs) as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. The ministry charged that NPOs presently registered under the Sri Lanka Companies Act No. 7 of 2007 are acting out the role of NGOs. Director/Registrar of the National Secretariat for NGOs, D. M. Saman Dissanayake, speaking to Ceylon Today, observed that according to the new Act any organization that does not register with the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development will have their bank accounts closed and obtaining foreign funds will also be expressly forbidden.
The government will also be imposing financial regulations on banks to get this done.
NGOs are no longer permitted to conduct press conferences, workshops, trainings for journalists and disseminate press releases following a directive issued by the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. The directive came into effect from 01 July.
Yet, in open defiance of this move, the Collective of Civil Organizations, with Chairman of Transparency International, Sri Lanka and Convenor of Lawyers’ Collective J. Chrishantha Weliamuna, Head of the Department of History of the University of Colombo Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Alternatives Dr. Paikiyasothi Saravanamuttu, President of International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination in Sri Lanka, Dr. Nimalka Fernando, Executive Director of Rights Now, Sudharshan Gunawardene, President of the Association for Families of the Disappeared Relatives, Brito Fernando, Attorneys-at-Law Ravi Ratnavel and Manjula Pathiraja, and Convenor of the Free Media Movement, Sunil Jayasekera, held a press conference at the Nippon Hotel in Slave Island yesterday.
The Collective of Civil Organizations said, while they rejected the undemocratic directive and would continue to carry on with their activities, if the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development attempts to turn the screws on, they would then consider Court action.
Dissanayake opined that no NGO representatives had participated in the press conference, adding that those who had organized it and participated in it were mere company representatives.
NGOs are only the organizations registered with the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development and there are only 1,416 in this country, he pointed out.
BY Niranjala Ariyawansha