26 September, 2023


“Sri Lanka Transforming Into A ‘Crypto Military And Authoritarian State’” Says BASL

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned the circular issued by the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organisations that has already come under heavy criticisms due to the restrictions it has imposed on civil society groups active in Sri Lanka.

Upul Jayasuriya -BASL President

Upul Jayasuriya -BASL President

In a media release issued last night following the Executive Committee meeting, the BASL has asserted the communiqué issued by the Secretariat for NGOs that operates under the purview of the Ministry of Defense, as a ‘gross violation of the fundamental rights of the polity’ and has urged the authorities to revoke the circular immediately.

Pointing out the circular may have far reaching impacts on a free and democratic society; the BASL has stated that it is another extension of Sri Lanka’s transformation into a ‘crypto military and authoritarian state’.

The statement quoting the Global Military Index statistics issued by the Bonn International Center points out that Sri Lanka has been ranked as the most militarised country in the region at 36, following by Pakistan (47) and Afghanistan (58).

The BASL Executive Committee meeting has gone on to say the situation has been further deteriorated due to a regulation imposed under section 12 of the Public Security Ordinances that transferred Police powers to the Army, Navy and Air Forces, covering the entire country.

They state the deteriorating levels of right to dissent, freedom of expression, freedom of association and media freedom in Sri Lanka have been reflected in the Worldwide Governance Indicators in which Sri Lanka’s position has dropped from 0.15 negative in 2002 up to 0.60 negative by 2012.

The following facts were also listed to further underpin their concerns over the shrinking democratic space in Sri Lanka:

·         Lack of action over approximately 33 deaths that took place whilst in Police custody – no steps implemented so far to take action against accused Police officials or to declare them as justifiable homicides

·         Nearly 75 -80 houses being heavily damaged by rioters during the anti-Muslim violence that erupted in Southern Sri Lanka while officials of the Special Task Force looked on and evidence of the violence being destroyed with the help of the same forces.

·         Tampering of independent commissions that have been appointed to curb bribery and corruption

·         Independence of the judiciary being compromised due to unsuitable appointees

·         Lack of transparency in multi-million dollar development projects due to awarding them to foreign contractors without following protocols

The BASL has pointed out that the solution to the present plight in the country is not stifling media freedom but to take action against those responsible.

Pointing out Sri Lanka is ranking in 165th in the global index by Reporters Sans Frontiers on press freedom, out of a total of 175 countries including Libya, Rwanda and Uzbekistan, the BASL has pointed out that the recently issued circular pertaining to NGO activity is a further oppression of the freedom of expression in the country.

“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,” the statement further reads.

We publish below the statement in full;

Communiqué has been issued On July 7 2014, the National Secretariat for NGOs, under the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development, to all NGOs preventing them from “conducting press conferences, workshops, journalism training and dissemination of press releases”. The authority claimed such activities are beyond the mandate of NGOs. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka is appalled by this communiqué and considers that the repercussions of the said circular may have far reaching impact on a free and  democratic society.

We observe that the post war Sri Lankan society is increasingly precipitating into a crypto military and authoritarian state.

Sri Lanka emerges as the most militarized country in the region ranked at 36 followed by Pakistan at 47, Afghanistan, 58 and India at 74. Nepal and Bangladesh occupy the 86 and 123 positions respectively while China comes at 84. These are the findings of the Global Militarization Index (GMI) 2013 published by Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) that is based on the data for 2012.

This situation is further strengthened by the fact that since the lapse of emergency a regulation has been issued under section 12 of the Public Security Ordinance vesting Police powers on the Army, Navy and Air force covering the entire Country. We also of the opinion that the said regulation illegal, unjustified and ultravires. This gazette has been opposed by the BASL from its inception having foreseen the danger faced by the people.

According to the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), a good governance template with regard to voice and accountability, Sri Lanka’s position in 2012 is at negative 0.60, a fast deterioration from 2002 where Sri Lanka was at negative 0.15. Similarly in percentile ranking, Sri Lanka has fallen from 42 in 2002 to 30 in 2012. This indicates our level of, lost right to dissent, freedom of expression, freedom of association and media freedom.

“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death”.Bertrand Russell

We as the Principal Body representing the legal fraternity in Sri Lanka and committed to uphold rule of law in the country, come forward to issue this statement with dismay and frustration over the deteriorating trend that has been continuing within our society without any check and balance.

We consider it fitting to be reminded that;

#. in a series of deaths approximately 33 in number that have taken place whilst in Police custody, No steps have been taken against those Police Officers responsible and the taking of steps to pass them off as justifiable homicides,

#. In another spate of killings by Police officers and forces with the full glare of public scrutiny, the officers responsible have not even been arrested and produced before a court of law,

#.  In Aluthgama, Beruwala and Dharga town in the presence of large contingencies of the Special Task Force nearly 75-80 houses, shops, factories and places of worship have been burnt and steps were initiated to destroy even the evidence available with the help of the same forces,

#. Independent commissions set up to curb Bribery and corruption are being interfered and tampered with, including transfers and appointments having been made in and out of the commission, arbitrarily and capriciously,

#.  Independence of the Judiciary has been compromised with unsuitable appointees over looking time tested criteria of seniority and eminence,

#.  Multi Million dollar contracts which are far in excess of the international norms are awarded to foreign Contractors on the basis of unsolicited bids arbitrarily.

The answer to these issues that have caused grave concern to the society is not to curb the media freedom in a shameless  manner but to put the system right and take action against those responsible.

According to Reporters sans Frontiers, in the world ranking, Sri Lanka stands 165th out of 175 countries in terms of press freedom, behind Uzbekistan, Rwanda and Libya. As far as Asia goes Si Lanka is the 35th out of the 40 Asian countries listed. This is on the basis of known data and reported facts.

This was the situation prior to the issuance of this circular.

The impugned circular that has been issued under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense stifling the freedom of expression further with chilling effect is of no avail to our country to reach the standing of “the Miracle of Asia”  !

One of the former Presidents of the USA, Thomas Jefferson himself suffered greatly by the press during his presidency. He was a great believer in the ultimate triumph of truth in the free marketplace of ideas, and looked to that for his final vindication.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” -Thomas Jefferson – so he said in 1787.

We observe that the post war Sri Lankan polity has been in an acute and deepening crisis. The decline of democratic institutions and practices have become a reality of the day.

Edmund Burke an Irish Philosopher in the 17th Century said, ” The Triumph of the Evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The effort of the National Secretariat for NGOs, under the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development, according to our opinion is a living testimony for this impending crypto military and authoritarian tendency of the country.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka wish to state that the said circular violates fundamental principles that govern our free and democratic society, which is guaranteed by our constitution and it is 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.

Therefore we condemn this so called circular issued by an officer within the Ministry of Defense in gross violation of the fundamental rights of the polity and urge the authorities to revoke this autocratic circular that has the effect of bringing further damage to the country Nationally and Internationally.

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Latest comments

  • 7

    Over to CW Sharma for a Report to is current Chairman and comments from
    Lawyers Unit thereat. Statements are all what can be produced – the
    Regime knows it all along.

    These are minor matters as far as the King is concerned: read -[Edited out]

    • 5

      The transformation to the military dictatorship took place at some point in the Eelam war IV under the leadership of Gota, egged on by the Buddha bhikkus.

      Mahinda and the coterie go along with the military junta for their own safety, well being and to satisfy their greed.

    • 4

      Yes, minor matters.

      Aluthgama was a minor incident

      “Sri Lanka Transforming Into A ‘Crypto Military And Authoritarian State’” Says BASL”

      Bacterial infections are cured by using effective Antibiotics.

  • 14

    Reading this article, one can see where this country is heading, and it is frightening.

    “The statement quoting the Global Military Index statistics issued by the Bonn International Center points out that Sri Lanka has been ranked as the most militarised country in the region at 36, following by Pakistan (47) and Afghanistan (58).”

    The intellects in the country says so, the world says so, and facts all point to the change for the worse in
    Sri Lanka. Our rights have been stripped away, our freedom of speech taken away, and any criticism is dealt with even violently. We have lost journalists, and any dissent, even for the right of clean water, have been dealt with military violence.
    What more proof?

    • 1

      Why is it surprising that Sri Lanka scores highy on the said Index ? It has come through a long period of terrorism which was finally controlled in May’09. The terror threat still exists and the TNA is a creation of the LTTE as DBS Jeyaraj details in his blog. Only a fool would have expected normality the next day.

      Yes, we have lost some rights during the last 5 years, the most visible one being the Right to be Blown Up while travelling on Public Transport. We show the finger today to the government by even daring to travel together with the family. The government is under threat from those who have long pretended to be our friends. Kowtowing to Sison, her iNGOs operating from within the Embassy and her local acolytes, funded overtly and covertly, could make things a lot worse as even the blind would be loathe to miss in the ME and Ukraine.

      • 2

        It seems you are still harping about winning the war against the LTTE. All fine and good, but now it is over and looks the like the government wants to be complicit in encouraging yet another communal problem, by doing nothing about the attacks against minorities. Wasn’t this exactly what started the previous war? Discrimination against the Tamils? Only fools would do the same thing over and over again, and expect different results.
        The government loves to pretend it is a victim of international conspiracies, to rally the people around it, and get distracted from the high cost of living, and the corruption going on. This is corruption on a major scale, especially by one family. Those who are naive enough to keep buying the propaganda must prefer to live in a bubble, and cannot see arrogant moves that have given them more power from our supreme courts to the top posts in the country, so that their “golayas” will allow them to continue their reign of corruption and spit on our constitution.
        By now, after the brutal war, we should all be united, and working for all the people in the country, not just the crooks on top. Every Sri Lankan who stood in their way, was denigrated, personally attacked, ridiculed, and kicked out, so that they could put one of their family members or golaya, to who would not stand in their way.

        • 1

          Shenali Wadduge has written about the events at Aluthgama. She has exposed what the ‘newspapers’ did NOT print, and I must confess that I may have been a little too harsh on Gnanasara thera.

          The LTTE was controlled on Sri Lanka, but it did NOT die. Just yesterday it even formed a new ‘International Senate’, and formed the 1st ‘NWO government’, pipping the US to the post. Laughable would you say ? We certainly should be united, working together to better out communal lot, but we have the tantrum-prone 5th column to contend with.

          • 2

            If you believe what Wadduge says, then there is no hope for you. Wadduge is pro government, and will push their agenda, and she is also anti Muslim. Some have accused her of being a paid lackey of the rajapaksa government. She is a Sinhala extremist, and I would take what she says with a pinch o salt. Wadduge’s writing is divisive, and certainly not helpful at this moment.

            • 1

              So to be believable one has to be anti-government,and non-Sinhala. I understand that she is Buddhist with little sympathy for the anti-national Christians and Muslims, and for that she has more than enough reason. What matters is whether Wadduge writes the truth, NOT whether what she writes is divisive or not. None of the ‘newspapers’ had seen fit give us the background to the events at Aluthgame, and what she wrote has put a different complexion on the whole. The so-called journalists should hide their heads in shame.

            • 0

              Shenali Waduge is a crass racialist and part-time commentator who enjoys her 15 minutes of fame. She gets publicity and thrill from the chauvinistic part of the media for imagining the most extreme form of perversion to massage the animistic feelings of the Sinhala mass. Such creatures are a natural phenomenon in Failed Societies such as ours. Waduge is a good example why our once decent society and its splendid value-system has been destroyed. Her contribution to the degeneration of Sri Lanka is considerable. It is up to the decent, educated, truly Buddhist Sinhalese now to wake up and help regenerate the country for all its people in the four corners of the land.


              • 3

                If you believe nothing Waduge writes would you beleive the Tamil Guardian reporting Muslim violence from 2006, eight years ago?


                And from 2007 –
                Kattankudy, four km south of the Eastern Sri Lankan town of Batticaloa, is unique. It is the only all-Muslim town in the island.

                Non-Muslims cannot (and will not) reside, buy property or run businesses there.

                With 65 mosques, this heavily built up and cramped town of 50,000 people spread over just 1 sq km, boasts of having the largest number of mosques per square kilometre outside the Muslim world.

                A prosperous market town, it stands out in the war-ravaged Batticaloa district – a source of inspiration for other Muslims, and an object of envy for the impoverished Tamils, who are the majority community in the district.

                But above all, Kattankudy is the nerve centre of Islamic fundamentalism, an ideology which is being spread among Muslims not just by intense social pressure, but by gun-wielding radical youths with a background of Wahabi religious education from the universities of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

                The first thing one would notice on entering Kattankudy is that, in contrast to other towns in Eastern Sri Lanka, there are hardly any women on the streets.

                This is in sharp contrast to Batticaloa, just 10 minutes away, where young girls are not only out in large numbers but go about in bicycles, or zip around in small scooters.

                The few women on the roads of Kattankudy are either Tamils from outside who have come to shop or Muslims covered from head to foot.

                Some even cover their hands and feet with black gloves, socks and shoes. In some cases, the hijab (head covering) has small holes to allow the lady to see.

                But the more common form is a two-piece head and face cover, with a separate scarf covering the nose, mouth and neck but not the eyes, and tied at the back of the head.

                The hijabs and Abayas (the full body garment) of grown up women are always in black.

                Girl students have to cover themselves from head to foot from Grade 6 (age 12) onwards. To enable them to see, there are tiny holes in their hijabs.

                Only old women are allowed to come out in the traditional Sri Lankan Muslim attire, which is the sari with the pallu pulled over the head.

                According to KMM Kaleel of the Federation of Mosques and Muslim Associations radical change in the dress code came in the past five years.

                SLM Nashwal, former Assistant Secretary of the local Jamiat Ulema, said that as per the Quran, a woman could expose only her face and hands.

                And on this, there was almost total agreement, with even Moulvi Abdul Rauff, a Sufi leader who had incurred the wrath of the Saudi-backed Jamiat Ulema, echoing it.

                As one saw, the predominant dress code was actually much more radical than the Quranic prescription. It is Talibani.

                Its spread can be largely attributed to the persuasive power of Saudi backed and funded Wahabi organisations like the Tabligh and Tawheed Jamaats.

                “Generally, males dictate what the women in their household should wear. But many women have taken to the Abaya and Hijab willingly,” said Aneesa Firthous, a former nurse who heads the Islamic Womens’ Association.

                As for herself, she said she did not wear the sari because it was a “Tamil dress and not Muslim.”

                The nonchalant denial of 50 per cent of the Eastern Muslims’ culture was amazing, since, ethnically, the Muslims are either a mixture of Arab merchants and local Tamils or are converts from the local Tamils.

                Denial of the local heritage could lead to a dysfunctional relationship with the social and political environment and cause conflicts.

                There are no cinema theatres in Kattankudy. It has never had one. There were VCD and DVD shops selling Tamil cinema fare but these were burnt down, Kaleel said.

                People do see TV at home. But many like Aneesa and pre-school teacher Fowmiya do not see cinema-based programmes and tele-dramas.

                “We like to watch videos of good Iranian films,” Fowmiya said.

    • 5

      Why do you stress the # 36 ranking of Sri lanka, very well knowing that our military fought for 30 years against brutal terrorism? I hope your not suggesting that the army should have stayed in barracks and the gov. hand over the country to the terrorist! My suggestion is the militarization should continue until the anti Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and NGOs cease to exist.

      • 1

        Three cheers eusense (for talking sense)!

  • 13

    The southern polity who looked on and did not object while the north and east were slowly ‘militarised’,have now woken up to this fact,when the entire justice system in the south too,has been perverted and cast aside by militarisation.
    The ‘puppet’ Minister of Justice was unable to summon the IGP and direct him to order even a “baton charge” on the looters & arsonists during the recent anti muslim pogrom which would have halted the mayhem.
    The lawyers have belatedly realised the situation now.
    The “good men” are at long last trying to “do something”,but,evil has triumphed,in the many spheres of “human rights” – as eneumerated above.
    Will they dare to send a detailed memorandum to the UN Probe team at least even now.

  • 8

    The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL)

    “The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned the circular issued by the National Secretariat for Non-Governmental Organisations that has already come under heavy criticisms due to the restrictions it has imposed on civil society groups active in Sri Lanka.”

    So What can you Do? What are your options?

    So What can the people Do? What are their options?

    • 8

      The BASL has taken the most important first step in condemning the circular on NGOs and its reading of the evolving situation in Sri Lanka as a ‘Crypto Military and Authoritarian State’ is spot on. The role of the legal fraternity, including the independent judges, would be most important in a civil society mobilization for re-democratization of the country. This is confirmed by the history of democracy and democracy movements in all democratic countries in the world (See for instance Richard P. Claude, Comparative Human Rights).

      The circular should not be taken lightly. The MFA statement yesterday (Daily News) gives a further ideological justification for the circular and thus the ‘crypto military and authoritarian state.’ It might be necessary to challenge the circular in Courts and also to mobilize the legal fraternity (with international solidarity) in a process of awareness building and dissent/resistance to the dangerously evolving situation.

      I normally disregard Amarasiri (sorry for that!) of his ‘amusing comments.’ But he is absolutely correct in this instance in asking the BASL “So what can your do? What are your options? So what can the people do? What are their options?”

      • 4

        Dr. Laksiri Fernando,

        1, “So What can you Do? What are your options?
        So What can the people Do? What are their options?”- Amarasiri.

        Yes, Exposure, Civil Disobedience, Put up Posters Up at Night, will be removed a few days later, but keep putting up posters, distribute flyers, e-mail, post on Facebook, Twitter, U Tube and anywhere one can expose the current situation…JVP used to focus on posters.

        Yes. We need “Vimuktiya”, Liberation from tyranny and from the tyrants.

        2. “The role of the legal fraternity, including the independent judges, would be most important in a civil society mobilization for re-democratization of the country. ” -Dr. Laksiri Fernando.

        Sri Lanka is Democratic all right. It is called officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It is not the re-democratization of the country, that is needed. Just implement the rights of the people under the Constitution and provide Law and order and Constitutional protection. That is the core problem. It is close to anarchy now.

        3. “I normally disregard Amarasiri (sorry for that!) of his ‘amusing comments.’ But he is absolutely correct in this instance in asking the BASL “

        I do that too, (sorry for that) and depends on the “Free Time” I have for these articles and posts, and try to be selective. Still I do learn something. What I am appalled is the extent to which the Sinhala “Buddhist” monks, Sinhala “Buddhist” political leaders and lay leaders will go to lie in the face of overwhelming evidence against their lies after the fact and the participation of the state in their criminal activities.

        I did not see that the Tipitaka, required lying, or Buddha Taught lying, even though Monk Mahanama of Mahawamsa notoriety, lied with his imaginations.

  • 12

    A silent military coup has taken place. President Rajapakse is now a puppet rubber stamp of the military.

  • 4

    In other words the GOSL has started treating every ethnic group of tje country equally -undemocratically. It is ironic that they are so fair only in treating every citizen of SL unfairly and ruthlessly.

  • 2

    How ironic is that the BASL President has grouped Srilanka with Pakistan and Afganistan to show how bad it is on his turf.

    Pakistan gets frequent visits fro Uncle Sam’s Drone brigade, which kills mums, grand mothers infants and who ever else who has the bad luck of being present in the surrounds.

    No body knows the total death count because the HR Commissioner is busy with the LTTE affairs and no one in the HQ to do any counting.

    Road side bombs, suicide attacks and even regular F 18 attacks kill hundreds in Afganistan and the High commissioner isn’t allowed any stock taking even if she wanted to.

    Only dark spot which the BASL Boss tries to pin on our beautiful country which hasn’t seen any of these after Nanthikadal is 33 crims dying in Police custody.

    Obviously these are 33 potential clients for the BASL Boss and his members if they had to be dragged through the courts.

    Denying employment opportunities to these legal eagles obviously is serious . Isn’t it?.

    And they may even have to join the NGOs to earn a living if the Police do their job properly.


  • 1

    Not one single rat has the guts to reject the letter and challenge its contents. All of them support the move clearly.

    • 0

      How about You, crazyoldmans? Do you have the guts? I am sure you can find some members of the BASL to act free for you.

    • 2


      “The Rajapakse regime has either become completely retarded or imbued with a deep sense of paraplegic paranoia. It seems as though the Defense Secretary has become so “high and mighty” that he has once again forgotten that his motherland has citizens like us with a strong backbone”

      Yes, crazyoldman this is Dr. Nimalka Fernando. What do you think? She is really crazy or something?

      Just read CT 09th July Dr. Nimalka’s speech. Britto Fernando. Dr. Paki, J.C waliamuna, Dr. Nirmal Ranjith, Sudarshana Gunawardana were among the speakers.

  • 3

    The MAD person in charge of the MOD is acting absolutely beyond his mandate. He has no bloody business and no legal authority to issue restrictive circulars such as the one he has issued through a minion.

    He should have consulted legal opinion first before acting in a high handed manner to perform an action in a sphere that is totally outside his purview. He is not a competent authority to dabble in matters such as this.

    The problem I believe is that there is not a single legal officer in the MOD; or at least one who knows his legal onions. All Ministries are supposed to have a legal officer. Even private businesses such as banks, insurance companies, construction firms, hospitals etc. have legal officers or consultants.

    The MAD MAN who is the Head of the MOD should first appoint a competent legal officer well versed in the law and then obtain his opinion before circulating illegal and obnoxious circulars like this one.

    Miracle of Asia, my foot!

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