FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

STATEMENT OF THE GOVERNING COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL PEACE COUNCIL

IN REGARD TO THE INVESTIGATION BEING CARRIED OUT ON IT

Last week, the Executive Director of the National Peace Council was called to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Sri Lanka Police.† He was informed that the CID wished to carry out an investigation regarding the organization’s sources of funding, its partners and the activities it was carrying out. CID officers asked questions about the work of the National Peace Council and asked for further information. This investigation was preceded by adverse media commentary in both the state media and sections of the private media that NPC together with other non -governmental organizations continue to be funded by foreign donors despite the end of the war and claiming that they are serving the interests of their funding partners.

The Governing Council is perturbed that the organization is being investigated by the CID instead of by the normal civil administration although there is no prima facie evidence or specific allegation that it is engaging in any criminal activities.† Most of the information that the CID has requested the organization to furnish has already been provided to the NGO Secretariat of the Government which is under the purview of the Ministry of Defence.† These include work plans, sources of funding, financial and audit reports, salaries of staff and annual reports.† So we fail to understand why the CID should investigate the organization. NPC staff has always cooperated fully with the NGO Secretariat which is the appropriate government regulatory and monitoring agency.

The National Peace Council was established in 1995 to support a citizensí movement for peace in a time of escalating war.† We believed, and continue to believe, in a non-violent and negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict within a united Sri Lanka.† Although the war has ended in an outright victory for the government forces we believe that the minority communities must be reconciled with the government and the majority community. Such reconciliation needs to be based on a just solution to the grievances of the ethnic minorities with devolution of power to enable them to carry out their administration of public affairs in the Tamil language also. Therefore, NPC continues to affirm the need for a political solution to the ethnic conflict and for a reconciliation process between the communities and the government of the day. .

The National Peace Council is primarily an advocacy and education organisation. What we advocate is the protection of human rights and fundamental democratic freedoms of all the people of our land. This is a long term objective which will convince the majority of the people the need for a just solution to the minority problems be they ethnic or religion based minorities. Our advocacy is related to the values and principles enunciated in the several United Nations declarations and connected declarations which are the basis of our Constitution. We do not in any way seek to engage in any political activity.††† All the work that we do is transparent and in the public sphere.† Throughout its years of existence, NPC has also been politically non-partisan, and its policy making bodies and staff are of diverse ethnicities, religions and political convictions.

The Governing Council is distressed that the current CID investigation would intimidate our staff members and their families, and also gives a negative message to the wider society of official intolerance towards liberal and democratic values. The UN Human Rights Day theme this year was the obligation of the member states to protect human rights workers in accordance with the UN Resolution.† NPC’s financial statements are available in our annual reports which are public documents in accordance with the Companies Law under which the organization is registered. All projects and donor funding are audited on an annual basis by Price Waterhouse and Coopers.† The audited accounts are filed with the Registrar of Companies and are accessible to members of the public. Our advocacy and education programs are also public and reported in the annual reports. We hope that the CID investigation will be concluded speedily and the results conveyed to us.

Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the cou

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