The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a strong statement issued today has expressed grave concern over the safety of those working in Non-Governmental Organisations in Sri Lanka that do not toe the line of the Rajapaksa regime, pointing at the recent instructions that have been issued by the National Secretariat for NGOs that operates under the purview of the Defense Ministry.
In a statement issued today, the AHRC has referred to the letter issued by the National Secretariat for NGOs that has instructed them to prevent from holding activities (press conferences, workshops, training for journalists and dissemination of press releases) that are ‘beyond their mandate’.
While holding the Defense Ministry responsible for shedding the blood of anyone that dares to express dissenting views, the AHRC has stated, “Anyone who takes the trouble to make a list of those whose blood has been shed in recent years for no other reason than expressing their protest against government policies, would know that this Ministry means business when it issues such letters. What the Ministry of Defense is trying to tell NGOs that dare to express themselves – by conducting conferences, workshops, training of journalists, and disseminating press releases – is not only that the gates of prison are open for them, but something more: that they face dangers similar to what many other Sri Lankans have faced already.”
The statement has also described the mentality of the Defense Ministry Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has been accused of war crimes, as one where he perceives Sri Lanka as a ‘country of the dead’; as a country where people should not think, should not speak, and should not even dream of expressing any view critical of the government.
The AHRC, which points out that the NGOs are entitled to the same rights as everyone to carry out their activities of holding press conferences etc. It has pointed out that these recently imposed restrictions are a message of the Defense Ministry’s idea, which they have been desperately trying to communicate for a while; the vision of a country where people enjoy rights only in their dreams.
The statement furthermore reads that these developments and restrictions should be gravely considered, adding they are indicators of the depths of disorder to which the present Sri Lankan government has sunk.
“It is a warning to one and all about how deep the government has sunk into disorder. Now is the time for all forces opposing the government to call for an end to such arbitrariness, to this insanity,” the statement further reads.