feizal samath Colombo
all foreign-aided ngos operating in Sri Lanka have been put under the scanner. A Parliamentary Select Committee, constituted by all political party-representatives, will examine if the ngos are involved in any illegal activities and keep a vigil on their source of funding.
The move has come close on the heels of a recent government reprimand to ngos for failing to complete post-tsunami work despite receiving billions of rupees from private donors. The committee is chaired by Nandana Gunatillake of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a Marxist party known for criticising peace-promoting ngos in the country.
In a newspaper advertisement on April 23, 2006, the committee called for public representations on the issue. The advertisement said that ngos have been accused of engaging in activities inimical to the sovereignty and integrity of Sri Lanka", and that "some are even involved in activities adverse to the national security and social well-being of the country". The committee will look into the working of these organisations, identify the manner in which they have impinged on national security and prepare a comprehensive report to be submitted to the parliament, said the advertisement.
But the committee's mandate is not very clear. " ngos, mainly those with foreign aid, have always been accused of suspicious behaviour and misuse of funds," says Jeevan Thiagarajah, executive director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, which has at least 50 local and international ngos as members. Moreover, lately, the ministry of social services appointed a committee to look into the transparency and accountability issues related to ngos," says Thiagarajah. Though, he feels that the committee will most likely look into the issue of national security, its course of action after receiving the public representation still remains unclear. This is the second attempt at probing the functioning of ngos in Sri Lanka. Earlier, in the 1990s, then president Ranasinghe Premadasa had set up a commission to investigate the activities of ngos. Political observers, however, say that the step was a witch hunt against a t Ariyaratne, founder of the Sarvodaya Movement, which is the country's biggest grassroots ngo involved in humanitarian work.
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