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Govt will introduce code of conduct for NGOs, INGOs - Disaster Management Minister

COLOMBO: The government said it will introduce a code of conduct for the NGOs and INGOs defining the parameters within which they can operate in the field of humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka, in the future.

Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who Chaired the media briefing at the JAIC Hilton yesterday of the 15 donor countries said the Government hopes to introduce the code of conduct followed by an internal monitoring mechanism to keep tab.

This will be evolved through a process of extensive dialogue with Government stakeholders, civil society and NGOs and INGOs which the Minister termed as having vast experience in this sphere, working in many countries developing and otherwise.

“This is no time for a witch hunt,” he stressed adding the move was not to curb NGO activities in the country. “I can vouch for the fact that our government has always stood for facilitating the NGOs and INGOs,” he said.

The Minister said the Government was committed to facilitate the NGOs and INGOs but at the same time it has the right to investigate allegations or complaints of wrongdoing.

He said there was no conflict between the Government and the NGO community as unfortunately portrayed in some sections of the media.

In response to the requests of the donor countries the Government has agreed not to issue public statements against NGOs under scrutiny until the investigations are over to prevent adverse media reports.

This decision has been taken at a meeting attended by government stakeholders, co-Chair representatives and the EU recently.

Meanwhile, Ambassadors of 15 donor countries collectively voiced their concerns yesterday over widely circulated media reports of possible terrorist funding by the NGOs and INGOs, causing pressures on donor funds and threats on the staff.

The Ambassadors who joined in the collective effort to back the NGO community comprised envoys from the US, Germany, UK, Australia, EU, Switzerland and Norway. US ambassador Robert Blake said these allegations in the local press and elsewhere has resulted in NGO staff being physically harassed and intimidated.

“Some of these reports have resulted in attacks, intimidations and phone calls.” “All American NGOs are subject to very strict prohibitions under American law against providing any assistance to the LTTE,” he said adding if there were allegations that the humanitarian supplies were falling into the hands of the LTTE, a listed terrorist organisation in their definition, the US government was fully committed to cooperate in any state investigation and punish the offenders.

He said the United States was providing almost $ 160 million for development assistance and tsunami reconstruction activities in Sri Lanka, all of which are disbursed through their non-governmental partners. Swiss ambassador Ruth Flint said the non governmental organisations representing her country provides more humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka than what her government provides.

She expressed that they were doing a commendable service and therefore, objective reporting would boost their motivation and quality of work.

Noting that the Australians have listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation in 2002 Australian Ambassador Greg French said funding LTTE will be a criminal act under its law.

He endorsed that all Australian NGOs were credible organisations that have unblemished track records.

The EU head responding to media queries said, in the uncleared areas they were working only with the NGOs approved by the Government to ensure that the humanitarian assistance does not fall into LTTE hands.

Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, US, UK, Germany, EC, Australia, France, Italy, Netherlands, Romania and UNHCR represented the media conference chaired by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

 

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