July 11, Colombo: All Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Sri Lanka are required to register with the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations and abide by the regulations specified in the relevant Acts, the External Affairs Ministry has stated.
In a statement released Thursday, the External Affairs Ministry said its attention has been drawn to the recent media reports and expressions of concern relating to recent instructions issued by the Director/Registrar of the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations on the conduct of legitimate activities by NGOs.
As required by the related Regulations, all NGOs registered with the NGO Secretariat are liable to submit annual Action Plans containing details of the activities which would be undertaken in the forthcoming year for approval.
In the event that NGOs conduct press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and disseminate press releases, which are not connected to the activities in the approved annual Action Plan, those NGOs would be acting beyond their given mandate, the Ministry explained.
The Ministry recalled that the work of Non-Governmental Organizations in Sri Lanka is based on the provisions of the legal framework provided by the relevant Acts and Regulations.
According to the Ministry Voluntary Social Service Organizations [Registration and Supervision] Act Number 31 of 1980, Voluntary Social Service Organizations [Registration and Supervision] [Amendment] Act Number 8 of 1998, Regulations issued under the Act published in the Extraordinary Gazette 1101/14 dated 15/10/1999 and the Circular Letter of the Secretary to the President dated 26/2/1999.
The Director/Registrar of the NGO Secretariat has sent these instructions to all NGOs registered with the NGO Secretariat.
"Unfortunately, having found some NGOs had exceeded their mandates, the Director/Registrar of the NGO Secretariat was compelled to issue the said instructions, which was a mere reiteration of the existing provisions for their smooth functioning," the Ministry statement said.
"While as a sovereign and independent State, all Non-Governmental Organizations operating in Sri Lanka are required by law to be registered, to ensure transparency and accountability, it has also been found that this is practiced in the breach," it further noted.
The Ministry said the government has consistently facilitated the work of NGOs, throughout the country, given their important contribution to enhance the welfare and socio economic development of the people.
"Regrettably, it is noted that some organizations had sought to misjudge these efforts and express unfounded concerns without verification," the Ministry statement said.
The Ministry highlighted that while 1421 NGOs have been registered with the NGO Secretariat and continue to carry out their activities legitimately in the country, only a very few are not abiding by the regulations.
The Ministry said it is universally accepted for a legal framework to be in place governing the conduct of NGOs and the action by the Government of Sri Lanka is in accordance with such practice.