18 September, 2021

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Sri Lanka’s MoD Runs A Parallel Administration

By Karu Jayasuriya

Karu Jayasuriya MP

Karu Jayasuriya MP

Striking a chilling blow to civil society and the freedom of assembly and free expression in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Defence has issued a circular to Non Governmental Organisations virtually banning them from expressing views to the public.

The circular that has been sent out to over 1000 NGOs from the National NGO Secretariat, that strangely functions under the Ministry of Defence, even five years after the war ended, has banned the organisations from holding press conferences, workshops and even issuing a simple media release.

Under the Sri Lankan Constitution, any citizen, irrespective of whether they belong to an association, is guaranteed the right of free expression. They are guaranteed the right to peacefully assemble. The Ministry of Defence that has stamped out civil liberties in unprecedented ways in the post war era, is well on the way to creating a military state in Sri Lanka. It is in such an autocratic set up that the Defence Establishment dictates the limits of an individual or collective right to speech and assembly. It is the Rajapaksa Government’s greatest ruse, to keep telling the public and the world that Sri Lanka is a functioning democracy, while the Defence Ministry runs a parallel administration that is adamant to curb freedoms and build surveillance systems to oppress the citizenry and stamp out dissent against the regime.

It is the argument of the Defence Ministry, completely unsupported in the law books of this country, that these activities would be tantamount to NGOs going beyond their mandate.

Even if the Defence Ministry was basing its proscription in law, it would be laughable in its hypocrisy. Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence is one of the most versatile in the world, engaging in activities beyond its mandate in ways that boggle the mind. The military is involved in horticulture, tourism, aviation, dengue prevention. It operates boat rides and barber shops. The Defence Ministry has become the place to resolve every national issue, from economic crisises to religious conflict, because the citizenry is increasingly aware that it is in that building that the true power of this regime resides. The civil administration is losing grip, as the military facet of the regime gains in strength, stature and brutality with each passing day.

The circular clipping the wings of NGOs in the country therefore, is about a much bigger issue.

The time has come for Sri Lankans to question why the Defence Ministry’s shadow intrudes into every aspect of civilian life and governance in this country. As citizens, we must question why we are forced to rely on the military to perform the most perfunctory of tasks, such as collect our garbage or cut our grass. We must open our eyes as to which branch of this Government is creating the perception that it is only the military establishment that is the only functioning system – and why it is necessary to entrench that impression in the minds of the public.

As the country’s main opposition we demand that the Government recognise and uphold civil society and its contribution of civil society to the broader democrtaic framework that it claims commitment to. The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa demonises every individual and institution that stands in its way to consolidating power and establishing an autocracy. The NGO sector has long been in its cross-hairs.

The UNP demands that the Government and its Ministry of Defence relinquishes its stranglehold on civil society. As Chair of the Commonwealth, which only months ago hosted the Commonwealth Peoples’ Forum and recognised the role of civil society in a democracy, the Government has a moral obligation to keep its hands off peoples movements and NGOs.

*Statement issued by Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of  the Leadership Council, UNP

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    In the north ONLY the MoD runs its administration. Civil administration is threatened to carry out military’s agenda. The ex-military governor organises irrelevant kyte, music and sports activities to counter the normal functions of the Northern Provincial Council.

  • 5
    0

    The writer is best placed to lead the questioning in parliament. However, why do too many of us get the feeling that the dreaded Gotabaya is not quaking in his boots this morning? He has carte blanche to do whatever he wants in the ‘interests’ of national security. There is no indication that things will change anytime soon, but we should all chip away at the Rajapakse edifice to bring change. Till then, watch your backs, toilers.

  • 2
    7

    NGOs in the West, which Karu Jayasuriya’s lot worship ,only allowed to run Soup kitchens, Methadone Clinics, and conversion classes to turn Catholics and the Anglicans in to Born Again Christians.

    Ocassionaly . they join protests like the ones against WTO and get bashed up by the cops.

    Are they allowed to advise the Govt on Alternative Policies, prepare petitions to Pillai,conduct strategic planning for terrorists, provide logistics, Medical facilities and even smuggle arms and ammunition in Ambulances?.

    Why would the Govt crack down if these NGOs do only charitable things like Meals on Wheels, Spoken English classes for the rural folk, free Medical Clinics,and genuine Orphanages which accrue merit?…

  • 4
    0

    ‘Sri Lanka’s MoD Runs A Parallel Administration’

    How did patriot Karu discover this? Was it when he was a Minister in the Rajapakse government? You can’t trust any politician.

  • 3
    0

    “It is the Rajapaksa Government’s greatest ruse, to keep telling the public and the world that Sri Lanka is a functioning democracy…”
    Mr. Karu Jayasuriya should know it is because the Rajapakse regime has succeeded in creating a Failed Society that he and a dozen others from the opposite side were enticed to join the Rajapakse clique – more to steal and plunder than to serve a poor nation. A Govt that silences the neutrality of the Attorney General’s Department can no longer be entitled to call itself democratic. The region and the world cannot be fooled. The Rajapakse regime is a faltering rogue regime characterised by mass plundering and run by drug-lords and criminal gangs at the top.

    Backlash

  • 4
    0

    Do we have a constitution? Some wild boars ruling you and me Mr. Jayasuriya.
    If we still have a written constitution, it is an ideal piece of antiquity for Colombo Museum.

  • 1
    0

    If Hon. Karu thinks that a parallel administration is going on, specially
    in the North via MoD, and also its Secretary ad-hoc appointee of MR
    cannot the Hon.M.P. move a resolution in the House to summon the DS for
    questioning, including all his unconstitutional acts since 2010 duly
    summarised? Chamal may block it, but it may get recorded in the Hansard
    for Academics. Best before next elections please.

  • 2
    1

    KJ

    It is great to pontificate and theorise, but action is of the essence.

    Organise the masses, educate them and then challenge the government in the streets and in the polling booth.

    Then you will be a Man!

  • 1
    0

    Recent incidents in Aluthgama made sure it lost every single minority vote for Rajapakse. Together with those Sinhala votes they never had (e.g. UNP, JVP, Sarath Fonseka etc. ) they are doomed in an election. However that is a foregone conclusion and one which the Family knows. Which is why the guns are locked and loaded and the back drop has been created all along to subvert democracy and replace it with a dictatorship backed by military since 2012. BBS, JHU and all such players are tools to achieve this. We fools including opposition parties are all divided and watching the start of the ball roll from the top of the mountain. Soon it will roll over us while we quibble amongst us. ACT NOW!

  • 1
    0

    Though what Hon Karu J says is true he would have had more credibility if only he had had the prescience never to have joined this government as a high ranking minister for several years some time ago.

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