ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 2, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40

Tight control on INGOs

By Chris Kamalendran

Tough new measures to further control international non-governmental organisations are to be enforced soon, an official said yesterday. The new regulations, being formulated by the Ministries of Defence, Social Services and Home Affairs, would include visa restrictions, closer supervision and specified limits for their work, Social Services Ministry Secretary V. Jegarasasingham said.

The Sunday Times learns that recommendations contained in an upcoming interim report prepared by a parliamentary select committee would also be taken into consideration in drafting the regulations.

The interim report proposes that an INGO seeking registration in Sri Lanka should produce a certificate from the Finance Ministry and the Defence Ministry of the country of origin. An expatriate working for a local NGO will also have to produce a similar certificate.

The report notes that it has found that some INGOs and NGOs have launched projects without approval from a proper authority. The committee is also to recommend measures to monitor publications by the INGOs and NGOs following reports that some of the orgnisations have been involved in political activities.

While the Government finalises the regulations which will come into effect within the next two weeks, INGOs are expressing growing concern over conditions under which they have to work, especially in the north. The Sunday Times learns that several INGOs operating particularly in the north and east have started phasing out their operations due to the increasingly unfavorable conditions.

“There are many countries where there is work for NGOs and several organisations and personnel are choosing to go to these places,” a foreign INGO employee in Colombo said. Guy Rhodes of the Solidar Consortium, an INGO operating in the north, in a presentation on the issue at a meeting on Friday, of INGOs that operate in the Wanni, said they faced many challenges due to restriction of movement of staff and resources, exposure to periodic aerial bombings, coordination weakened by reduction of expatriate staff (UN and NGO) as well as significant delays in obtaining visas and security permits for expatriates.

Mr. Rhodes said there were serious restrictions on supplies to the Wanni and this was created largely by the ineffectiveness of the Commissioner General of Essential Services and strict procedures enforced by the Defence Ministry.

According to Government officials, the need to regularise INGOs was first discussed soon after the 2004 tsunami when hundreds of INGOs flooded into the country to carry our relief activities. Later, it was found that some of them were acting in a manner detrimental to the interests of the country.

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