July 09, Colombo: The Civil Society Collective (CSC), an umbrella organization of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) in Sri Lanka said today the move by the Defense Ministry to ban NGOs from conducting news conferences and workshops was unconstitutional and therefore they would ignore the ban.
A circular from the NGO Secretariat, an institution under the Defense Ministry announced that the NGOs are not allowed to hold news conferences, workshops, training of journalists and issuing news releases stating these activities went beyond their mandate.
JC Weliamuna, a lawyer from the CSC told media on Wednesday that the Defense Ministry's order was "absolutely unconstitutional" and violated the public's rights of freedom of association and expression.
"We strongly condemn this detrimental move. This is a serious blow to democracy in the country. We as part of civil society have the right to freedom of speech and association. The Defence Ministry has gone beyond its mandate by issuing this circular. We prefer to ignore the ban as it is illegal and have decided to carry out our programs as usual," the CSC said.
The Asian Human Rights Commission meanwhile said the Defense authority has acted beyond its mandate by the move to restrict NGOs.
"The conduct of the MoD in issuing such communication further strengthens the allegation that Sri Lanka has now become an Authoritarian State," the Asian Human Rights Commission said.
The CSC urged the Defense Ministry to withdraw the circular immediately and warned of legal action if it was serious about implementing it.