Suranjit slates critics of NGO law on cancellation of registration

Lawmaker Suranjit Sengupta has slated critics of the recently passed law aimed at cancelling the registration of NGOs for 'malicious' statements on any constitutional body or for making ‘subversive’ remarks.

Published : 18 Oct 2016, 06:28 PM
Updated : 18 Oct 2016, 06:28 PM

"NGOs don't have rights the media enjoy. Freedom of expression is for citizens. The NGOs are much inferior here," Sengupta has said.

The chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the law ministry made the remarks at a media conference on Tuesday amidst criticism of the law by NGOs and countries funding them since the measure was adopted by Parliament.

The committee included in the bill a provision on cancellation of NGOs' registration after Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman termed Parliament a 'puppet show stage' last year.

The Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill, 2016 was passed into law by Parliament on Oct 5.

The law also stipulates cancellation of the registration of NGOs for financing and patronising terrorism and militancy, and trafficking women and children.

NGOs will also have to take prior approval from the NGO Affairs Bureau on undertaking any project and can implement it with foreign donations only through scheduled banks.

Spokespersons of several NGOs have reacted sharply against the law. The European Union has also criticised the law.

On Sep 9, TIB Chairperson Sultana Kamal said that Section 14 of the law would place at risk the constitutionally-recognised fundamental right to freedom of expression.

She thinks the government was "actually more willing to discourage voluntary activities and control the NGOs in the name of ensuring transparency and accountability in their collection and use of foreign funds".

Representatives of NGOs had urged President Md Abdul Hamid not to approve the bill, but the president assented to it on Oct 13.

"A foreign body cannot be abusive about a sovereign Parliament. Then it won't be sovereign any more. It exists nowhere in the world. (The NGOs) will have to work under this law if they want to work," Sengupta said.    

 Comparing the NGOs with the media, the Awami League MP said, "NGOs came into being through a general law. But the media have been given freedom through a law under the Constitution.

"You (journalists) can speak because you have human rights protection, but not any foreign body can have this." 

"If you (NGOs) want to talk like the opposition party, then become the opposition," he added.

He maintained that the new law was not "actually new". "It was passed during martial law periods in 1978 and then in 1982. We've only done something new about it."