July 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry under the Rajapaksa administration is well on the way to creating a military state in Sri Lanka, a leader of the main opposition United National Party said today.
Issuing statement on the Defense Ministry's recent ban on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from expressing views to the public, chairman of the UNP Leadership Council parliamentarian Karu Jayasuriya said the Defense Ministry circular issued to the NGOs strikes a chilling blow to civil society and the freedom of assembly and free expression in Sri Lanka.
The circular that has been sent out to over 1000 NGOs from the National NGO Secretariat, a body that functions under the Ministry of Defense has banned the organizations from holding press conferences, workshops, training for journalists ,and even media releases.
"The Ministry of Defence that has stamped out civil liberties in unprecedented ways in the post war era, is well on the way to creating a military state in Sri Lanka," the UNP MP said.
"It is the Rajapaksa Government's greatest ruse, to keep telling the public and the world that Sri Lanka is a functioning democracy, while the Defense Ministry runs a parallel administration that is adamant to curb freedoms and build surveillance systems to oppress the citizenry and stamp out dissent against the regime."
MP Jayasuriya said Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry is the most "versatile" in the world as the military is involved in horticulture, tourism, aviation, dengue prevention and operates boat rides and barber shops.
"The Defence Ministry has become the place to resolve every national issue, from economic crises to religious conflict, because the citizenry is increasingly aware that it is in that building that the true power of this regime resides," he remarked.
The opposition MP pointed out that the civil administration is losing grip, as the military facet of the regime gains in strength, stature and brutality with each passing day.
He said the time has come for Sri Lankans to question why the Defence Ministry intrudes into every aspect of civilian life and governance in this country.
"As citizens, we must question why we are forced to rely on the military to perform the most perfunctory of tasks, such as collect our garbage or cut our grass. We must open our eyes as to which branch of this Government is creating the perception that it is only the military establishment that is the only functioning system - and why it is necessary to entrench that impression in the minds of the public," Mr. Jayasuriya said.
The MP said as the country's main opposition the UNP demands that the government recognize and uphold civil society and its contribution of civil society to the broader democratic framework that it claims commitment to.
The party demanded the government and its Ministry of Defense to relinquish its stranglehold on civil society.
"As Chair of the Commonwealth, which only months ago hosted the Commonwealth Peoples' Forum and recognized the role of civil society in a democracy, the Government has a moral obligation to keep its hands off peoples movements and NGOs," UNP MP said.