July 07, Colombo: Sri Lanka Defense Ministry Monday has sent a circular to all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) asking them to refrain from unauthorized activities such as press conferences and workshops and other such unauthorized activities.
The Director/Registrar of the Defense Ministry D.M.S. Dissanayake says it has been revealed to the Defense Ministry that the NGOs are acting beyond their mandate and conduct press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases.
"We reiterate that all non-governmental organizations should prevent from such unauthorized activities with immediate effect," the circular obtained and published by the Colombo Telegraph said.
Lashing back at the circular, the Lawyers Collective, a lawyers' organization in Sri Lanka said that the Ministry of Defence has acted beyond its mandate to restrict the activities of the NGOs.
"The Ministry of Defence does not enjoy any specific legal authority under any statute whatsoever to control freedom of speech and association of citizens, who act collectively through civil society organizations," the Lawyers Collective was quoted as saying.
Issuing a statement the Convener of the Lawyers Collective, JC Weliamuna said the analysis of the Communication shows that the Defence authorities appear to believe that the civil society organizations do not have any right to conduct such activities as press conferences, training and workshops.
"All governments that respect democratic values respect the rights of citizens to engage in such lawful activities," the Collective said.
"If the Government of Sri Lanka is serious in preserving the democratic character of the country, it must respect its own Constitutional freedoms such as Freedom of Expression and Association," it said.