July 12, Colombo: The Bar Association of Sri Lanka in a communiqué said that it is appalled by the recent circular issued by the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organizations in relation to the activities of the NGOs.
The BASL further said that the repercussions of the circular might have far reaching impact on a free and democratic society.
BASL charged that according to its observations, the post war Sri Lankan society was increasingly "precipitating into a crypto military and authoritarian state".
BASL said the circular violated the fundamental principles that governed a free and democratic society guaranteed by the constitution and it was completely militating against the rule of law principles of the country.
"The contents as well as the implications of the said circular is against the directive principles of state policy enshrined in the Chapter VI of the constitution as well as violation of freedom of Expression and Speech, freedom of Assembly and Association, Freedom of occupation as guaranteed by the Article 14 of the Sri Lankan Constitution. We observe that this attempt is nothing but yet another effort to silence the alternative public opinion of the society through inculcating fear psychosis among the section of the society enhancing the autocratic writ to a fearful height," BASL said in its communiqué.
The circular issued on July 7 2014 to all NGOs by the National Secretariat for NGOs, which is under the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development, orders them to refrain from "conducting press conferences, workshops, journalism training and dissemination of press releases". The authority claimed such activities were beyond the mandate of NGOs.
The BASL condemned the circular issued by "an officer within the Ministry of Defense in gross violation of the fundamental rights of the polity" and urged the authorities to revoke this "autocratic circular that has the effect of bringing further damage to the country Nationally and Internationally."