For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
The government currently hands over details of foreign nationals entering the country to serve in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to the state intelligence units for clearance. The move is initiated as part of the government’s move to monitor the functions of NGOs operating in the country.
Head of the NGO Secretariat and Director General, Media Center for National Security (MCNS), Lakshman Hulugalle told The Sunday Leader that while monitoring the actions of NGOs in the country, foreign nationals could serve in NGOs after receiving due clearance from the intelligence units.
“If they do not receive clearance, the government either terminates or does not extend the visas granted to them,” he said,
When asked the number of foreign nationals affiliated to NGOs who have been deported following intelligence reports, Hulugalle said he was unable to respond due to security reasons.
“Whenever we receive any information or in doubt about an individual or an NGO, we forward it to the intelligence units,” he said. Action is then taken according to the outcome of the intelligence inquiry.
However, he observed that no NGOs have been identified to have had direct links with the LTTE.
“The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) was the only one closed down for having links with the LTTE,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government recently terminated the visa given to Project Coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Programme (HRDPP), Elizabeth Ogaya.
Ogaya, a Kenyan born HR professional is attached to the US-based Non Violence Peace Force (NVPF) in Colombo and was given until August 30 to leave the country. Ogaya becomes the fourth foreign national to have their visa terminated by the Immigration Department from the NVPF organisation.
The government in July also deported NVPF Director Tiffany Easthome and senior staffer, Ali Ahamed.
The Sunday Leader last week quoted NVPF Country Director Florington Asirwatham as saying that no reason had been given for the termination of visas given to foreign members affiliated to the organisation. He was of the view that the cancellation was to do with the general tightening up of visas for NGOs in the country, as opposed to a direct conflict with the government on the Human Rights Defenders Programme, which is still active in the North and East of the island.