The existing NGO law, the Voluntary Social Service Organizations (Registration and Supervision) Act (VSSO Act 31 of 1980), is largely limited to the registration of NGOs. The NGO Secretariat and its role in monitoring NGOs is not contained in the present law but is an outcome of a government circular, which has less weight than a law.
The core group of NGOs who form the CSO-NGO Collective have been meeting with the Director General of the NGO Secretariat Sanjeewa Wimalagunarathna and the Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles under whose ministry the NGO Secretariat is now placed. They have sought to bring the larger CSO community on board with regard to the discussions.
A CSO-NGO consultation was organized where more than 400 representatives of organisations from across the country participated. As a member of the core group of NGOs, NPC used its resources to support the travel costs of most participants. Addressing the gathering, NPC’s Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera observed that successive governments had tried to control the NGOs. NGOs not only played a complementary role to the government, they also had a watchdog role especially in regard to issues of abuse of power and human rights violations. They also play an advocacy role in areas where the government might hold back due to political considerations.
At the consultation, the NGOs decided to present a set of principles that should guide government- NGO relations together with an updated version of the VSSO Act that they had prepared at a previous consultation in 2018.