The Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs has defended the recent circular, sent to NGOs, prohibiting them from engaging in certain activities. A statement by the External Affairs Ministry said that as required by the regulations in the country, 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.
The attention of this Ministry has been drawn to several 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.
It is recalled that the work of Non-Governmental Organizations in Sri Lanka is based on the provisions of the legal framework provided by the following:
- 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
- Circular Letter of the Secretary to the President dated 26/2/1999
The aforementioned instructions, issued by the Director/Registrar of the NGO Secretariat were sent to all NGOs registered with the NGO Secretariat. 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. 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. 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.
The Government of Sri Lanka has consistently facilitated the work of Non Governmental Organizations, 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. 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.
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.
Ministry of External Affairs
10th July 2014