Malinda Seneviratne raises an interesting question in his column in the Daily News. What exactly is civil society?
He goes on to say that the term has been hijacked by a narrow group of organisations, principally the National Peace Council, the Centre for Policy Alternatives and Transparency International who claim to represent civil society as a whole.
He is right that these are the most prominent of the organisations, they are certainly amongst the most vocal.
He implies that the organisations that should carry the mantle of civil society would be 'Dayaka Sabhava associated with a Buddhist temple, a maranaadhara samithiya (funeral donation society), or a community based organization such as the hundreds setup by Sarvodaya or the thousands by SANASA'.
While such organisations do fall into the broad definition of civil society, their aims and objectives are limited primarily to helping its constituents and as such tend to be inward looking. As their concerns are narrow and local, they work quietly and have little need to go to the media, which is probably why so little is heard of them.
Perhaps, like good children, civil society should be seen and not heard? And for those who are heard, Big Brother will be watching.
In a completely unrelated matter, the Minster for Public Relations and Public Affairs Mervyn Silva has discovered a plot by the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) to undermine the UPFA victory at the upcoming local government polls.
“According to information received, a representative has been appointed to each of the Local Government body area and each of them are to be paid Rs 5,000 for the two days - March 17 and 18.”
The question of dubious funding of NGO has been raised time and again and the above only serves to underline the importance of this. Why do they need to pay such vast sums and to what end? Placing monitors is very suspicious and worse, they are planning on something more:
“This organization is planning to tarnish the Government through various international networks for which they are now holding discussions with several electronic media institutions and two newspapers."
Fortunately this has been caught in time and the Elections Commissioner has been asked to "act in this regard as this media conspiracy is to be launched under the pretext of election monitoring".
This however is not the end of the story. Mano Ratwatte, writing from the U.S. of A has uncovered yet more treachery. It appears that NGO's have received funding, large funding, which needs investigation and action on the lines of US authorities.
He says, in the US, the FBI will investigate any NGO with links to muslims or the Middle East and points out that there are 'Congressional hearings (akin to the McCarthy witch hunt against communists) on the "Radicalization of Muslims in America". A most interesting turn of phrase I must say, the government should apparently leave no stone unturned (or thrown) in its quest to eliminate such sorcery.
He highlights the brave American journalist Seymour Hersh to exposed the MyLai massacre. Hersh was labeled a traitor by many leading American politicians and harassed.
Does this ring any bells? Alarm or otherwise?
About the American motives, of course.