Against the backdrop of some organisations defying the regulations governing NGO activities, the government has decided to enact a law, before the end of this year, making it mandatory for all of them to register with the National Secretariat on NGOs.
NGO activities are currently governed by the provisions of the Voluntary Social Service Organizations [Registration and Supervision] Act Number 31 of 1980 and Voluntary Social Service Organizations [Registration and Supervision] [Amendment] Act Number 8 of 1998.
As required by the relevant acts, the NGOs are required register themselves with the National Secretariat on NGOs which functions under the Ministry of Defence.
There are 1421 NGOs registered with this secretariat.
Recently the secretariat issued instructions to NGOs to refrain from conducting press conferences and workshops for journalists unless they were mentioned in their annual action plans and approved by the secretariat.
However, some organisations such as Transparency International and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, openly defied the instructions by the NGO Secretariat.
Against this backdrop, Saman Dissanayake, the director of the NGO Secretariat, said the proposed law would be introduced in the form of an amendment to the existing Act and enacted before the end of this year. Then, he said, all these organisations would be required to register with the NGO Secretariat.
“Otherwise, there will be legal restrictions on their activities. They will face restrictions in getting foreign funding,” he said.
Currently, though they operate as NGOs, some have been registered as nonprofit organisations under the Companies Act.
Mr.Dissanayake said the new bill had almost been drafted.
“The Legal Draftsman is giving it final the touches now,” he said.(Kelum Bandara)