“The Ministry of Defence does not enjoy any specific legal authority under any statute whatsoever to control freedom of speech and association of citizens, who act collectively through civil society organisations. In the circumstances, it is clear from the Press Release issued by the Defence Ministry has acted beyond its mandate”, says the Lawyers Collective
Issuing a statement the Cconveners of the Lawyers Collective, JC Weliamuna says “Analysis of the Communication shows that the Defence authorities appear to believe that the civil society organisations do not have any right to conduct “press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases”. All governments that respect democratic values respect the rights of citizens to engage in such lawful activities. Only authoritarian regimes prevent such democratic engagements. If the Government of Sri Lanka is serious in preserving the democratic character of the country, it must respect its own Constitutional freedoms such as Freedom of Expression and Association.
“The communication of the Director of National Secretariat for NGOs is an indication of the limited understanding of powerful Sri Lankan defense establishment on the civil liberties. The conduct of the MoD in issuing such communication further strengthens the allegation that Sri Lanka has now become an Authoritarian State.”