July 09, Washington, DC: The United States Tuesday expressed concern on reports that Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense has ordered registered Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups to cease their media engagements and activities.
Director of Sri Lanka's National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs), a body functioning under the Ministry of Defense, in a circular to the NGOs said Monday that 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.
He said such activities carried out by the NGOs were beyond their mandate and asked all non-governmental organizations to prevent from such unauthorized activities with immediate effect.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki in a press release said the Defense Ministry's order "undermines Sri Lanka's longstanding and proud democratic traditions, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly."
"We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow civil society organizations and NGOs, which play a vital role in supporting Sri Lanka's democratic values, to operate freely," the spokesperson said.
Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said the NGOs through this letter had only been asked not to exceed their mandate which is clearly stated in the Voluntary Social Service Organizations [Registration and Supervision] Act Number 31 of 1980 that govern the NGOs.
There are no any legal provisions to act beyond the Mandate, he noted.