|07COLOMBO241||2007-02-08 06:55:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Colombo|
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000241
1. The Ambassador and EU Head of Mission Wilson organized on
February 7 a press conference to publicize the positive work that
international NGOs are performing in Sri Lanka and condemn the
recent campaign to discredit international NGOs. The German
Ambassador (and EU President), the U.S. Ambassador and the
Ambassadors of Australia and Switzerland all spoke and provided
specific examples of the positive work that NGOs from their
countries are doing in Sri Lanka.
2. Ambassador's remarks follow:
The United States attaches great importance to supporting the work
of international NGOs and their indigenous Sri Lankan partners.
This year the United States is providing almost $160 million for
development assistance and tsunami reconstruction programs in Sri
Lanka. All of that assistance is implemented through our
Approximately 40 of the international NGOs in Sri Lanka are based in
the United States. These American NGOs as well as other
international and indigenous NGOS provide a wide range of valuable
assistance to Sri Lankans in every part of Sri Lanka.
Following are just a few examples of the important work American
NGOs are doing:
United Methodist Committee on Relief conducts emergency relief,
shelter repair and reconstruction, rehabilitation of community
infrastructure, and livelihood assistance in Batticaloa and
AmeriCares is working to renovate the Pediatric ward, Operations
Theater, Mental Health Clinic, Blood Bank, Medical and Surgical
wards, and Outpatient Department of the Elpitiya Base Hospital in
CARE is supporting socio-economic empowerment, food production,
infrastructure, saving and credit, and income generating activities
Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Batticoloa.
Mercy Corps has benefited over 330,000 people through economic and
community recovery and development in Hambantota, Ampara, and
Catholic Relief Services constructed transitional shelters, repaired
damaged homes and constructed latrines in Tsunami affected divisions
in Ampara and Batticaloa.
The Asia Foundation works with 35 local governments in tsunami and
other areas to develop the capacity of the local governments by
providing technical assistance and training.
Associates in Rural Development Inc. works nationwide with the
Bribery Commission and Auditor General Department to improve their
capacity to reduce corruption in the government sector.
Community Development Services works in Kurunegala, Mannar and in
the south and west with two main Sri Lankan NGO partners and six
local sub-grantees to increase awareness of HIV-AIDS and
Unfortunately some NGOs have been the target of unsubstantiated
allegations in the Sri Lankan press and elsewhere. This has
resulted in the staff of these NGOs being subject to physical
harassment and intimidation. Such attacks jeopardize the valuable
services and assistance these organizations provide to the Sri
All American NGOs are subject to very strictprohibitions under
American law against providingany assistance to the LTTE, which is
listed as aterrorist organization in the United States.
COLOMBO 00000241 002 OF 002
If there are any allegations that humanitarian supplies are falling
into LTTE hands, these NGOs and the United States Government would
be pleased to cooperate fully to investigate promptly all such
allegations and punish those who violate American law.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank and commend Minister
for Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe for
his willingness to join us at this press conference and express the
Government of Sri Lanka's support for the valuable work that
international and indigenous NGOs are performing in Sri Lanka.
Minister Expresses Support
3. Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda
Samarasinghe agreed to our request to participate and give remarks
at the conclusion of the press conference. He noted that there are
more than 3,000 NGOs registered to work in Sri Lanka. He told the
media that he had seen on many occasions the excellent work that
such NGOs are doing to develop the country. He stressed that the
Government of Sri Lanka stands for the principle of supporting
international NGOs. He condemned statements that had appeared in
the media suggesting that the government did not support the work of
international NGOs. He pledged that when complaints arise against
specific NGOs, they would be investigated in a transparent and
accountable manner and the NGO in question would be given the right
to provide its side of the story. He further pledged that no public
statements would be made by GSL officials nor would press articles
appear in the official media while such investigations were
underway, unless an NGO was caught violating Sri Lankan law "in
flagrante delicto." He also announced that the government was
planning to draft a code of conduct to set forth the parameters
within which NGOs should operate in Sri Lanka. He said the code
would build on similar codes in other countries and would e
developed in full consultation with international NGOs. Finally,
the Minister said that the government planned to develop a
monitoring mechanism to ensure "proper end-to-end use of AID in
conflict areas," to ensure that equipment and commodities are not
diverted to the LTTE.
3. COMMENT: The Minister's decision to attend and speak at this
press conference was an important sign that the government takes
donor and NGO concerns seriously and will make a serious effort to
curtail the spate of unsubstantiated allegations that have appeared
in the Sri Lankan press that have resulted in attacks on NGO
representatives and other forms of intimidation and harassment.