Over the past few years Sri Lanka’s civil society organizations have been facing a most challenging task in discharging their responsibilities and obligations. These challenges have led to a situation which has resulted in weakening the spirit of both civil society activists and the organisations themselves. It has also challenged the democratic framework and good governance.
In the recent past civil society activists and organisations faced numerous threats and intimidations. Due to fear or reprisal some of these incidents were not reported. A grave situation has been created by making the civil society, which is a force to be reckoned with in any society, completely inactive. A most recent example is the threats aimed at Transparency International Sri Lanka – the pioneer national institution working towards combatting bribery and corruption and promoting good governance. Transparency International Sri Lanka faced severe challenges in conducting investigative journalism training workshops and even in holding the annual general meeting. Even though the government should take action to strengthen civil society in such situations, its silence and inaction makes it clear that an unidentified hand is behind these operations with the support of the government.
It is evident that these unidentified forces that operated in the North and East for a considerable time are now working towards making the civil society inactive even in the South. These actions of intimidation cannot be disregarded in any way at a time when what is needed is the active participation of civil society and the public. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights Article 14 of the Constitution clearly protects freedom of speech and association.
We, the Civil Society Collective vehemently condemn all efforts to deprive this right. While we also condemn the inaction of the government to protect civil society in such a situation, we intend taking all possible action.
We express our deep regret at the government’s indifferent attitude towards the civil society. We wish to emphatically state that we are committed to forcefully face such situations in the future. While we invite civil society organisations to join us in protecting civil and political rights, we appeal to civil society activists and organisations to inform us if they have been subject to any threats, harassments or intimidations.