Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa alleged that large scale foreign funding of NGOs operating in Sri Lanka would be inimical to ongoing post-war national reconciliation efforts hence, such projects should be resisted.
The government was seriously concerned about a fresh NGO onslaught in the wake of Western powers working overtime to destabilize the country, he said. Obviously, the ongoing 22nd sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva were a rallying point for anti-Sri Lankan elements, an irate Rajapaksa told The Island yesterday.
The Defence Secretary was responding to a US State Department decision to fund two special projects, to the tune of USD 500,000 each, one for increasing support and the other for safety of journalists and facilitating post-war reconciliation in the country.
The US announcement was made on Thursday amidst a simmering dispute between the two countries over the US moving a second resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions.
Those already propagating anti-Sri Lanka sentiments would now be in the fray for fresh funds, the Defence Secretary alleged. One million US dollars would be a powerful inducement for NGOs to go all out against Sri Lanka, the Defence Secretary said. The latest US initiative could be a long term project in accordance with their overall objectives detrimental to Sri Lanka, the he said.
Responding to a query, the Defence Secretary recalled alleged abuse of foreign funds received by some Sri Lankan journalists during the war. The revelation forced one of them to leave the country, the official said, adding that the unprecedented fraud wouldn’t have come to light if not for the recipients of donor funds fighting among themselves. The Defence Secretary said that the government was closely watching the situation. Asked whether the government opposed US funding of special projects here, the Rajapaksa alleged that the NGO community was taking foreign donors for a ride.
The war veteran urged the donors to estimate the total amount of funds given to NGOs since the signing of the Norwegian-arranged Ceasefire Agreement in Feb 2002. He called for proper examination of NGO funding. “In fact, the liberation of the entire Vanni region in May 2009 exposed those who had been receiving funds for various projects in LTTE-held areas. Troops didn’t come across any newly built facilities, not even a playground in the Vanni,” the Defence Secretary said.
He said that three major NGOs received over Rs. 600 million for projects for a three-year period beginning 2008. It was just a fraction of the money received by local NGOs since 2002, he said, adding that a recent Norwegian report, which dealt with their peace efforts here, revealed the massive funding operation.
The decision to provide USS 01 million for two special projects should be examined in the backdrop of recent USAID statement that the total amount of US funding for non-state sector for this year amounted to $ 13 mn, the official said.
Commenting on funding for projects to promote national reconciliation, the Defence Secretary pointed out that the LTTE had been the primary obstacle to peace. Successive governments went out of their way to reach an understanding with the LTTE, he said, recalling President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, sending delegations abroad for talks with the LTTE in early 2006. The Defence Secretary said that national reconciliation couldn’t be achieved by funding those propagating lies against the country.
He said that it would be interesting to know whether any NGOs operating in other conflict zones received funding for similar projects.
(Courtesy: The Island)