NGOs should be watchdogs and not lapdogs to funders

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(July 13, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Suckers are born every minute be they political stooges or paid NGOs. It is easy to tear a kitchen towel where there are perforations. Likewise the Western donors who want to spread their tentacles into countries where they have vested interests would target media, think-tanks and professionals who want to further their own interests both economically and intellectually.

NGOs and independent media say they are being targeted by the government and the latter argue that the former duo are selling the nation for 30 pieces of silver a la Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to King Herod and the High Priests of Jerusalem Temple into crucifying him. The government, NGOs and the media have legitimate grievances. 

The government would argue that its national interest is being jeopardised by paid NGOs and media whereas the latter two justify their stance on stepping in when the government breaches its constitution and its promises to the populace who voted it to power. 

There are two sides of argument to the government’s clamping down on NGOs. On the one hand some NGOs are paid generously to carry out their donors’ agenda and on the other they return the favour by acting as watchdogs to keep a check on government and corporate excesses and abuses. 

International NGOS focus on think-tanks, media and other professionals to carry out projects to either further their own interests geopolitically or trying to exert their influence in third world countries they seek to conform to their own ideals ignoring local cultural, ethnic and religious adherence which sustained them without interference from the West.

This has been proven over centuries when the West invaded countries and while proclaiming civilisation and spreading Christianity to tribes they perceived as uncouth with their belief in ancient traditions they could not comprehend, virtually plundered them of their resources and left them high and dry. 

Western democracy is only a wolf in sheep’s clothing and it takes many avatars and one of them is the latter 20th century proliferation of NGOs. US, UK and Europe poke their noses into countries which have oil, minerals, natural resources or strategic interests in their dominance watching over its own interests more than it portrays that they are being benevolent and acting as saviours.

When the West says the economy is in downturn it really means they cannot afford a second yacht in the Caribbean or oil-share in off-shore companies in Monaco or South America which are merely PO Box with no actual offices.

What they do not tell the US citizens is that if they told them the economy is doing well then they would demand a slice of their pie ergo they predict they are going through a rough patch and the fat bureaucrats are really becoming paupers due to credit crunch or the IMF and World Bank or US gold reserves are showing signs of severe rigor mortis.

And they tell us Third Word morons that we need to get our economy in order or else the IMF would stop lending us with strings attached. They also tell us to grow GM crops to feed the hungry while they resort to organic farming and windmill energy and keep their oil reserves in Texas and Alaska intact until they wage wars in the Middle East and deplete their energy resources. 

UK’s Refugee Council came into a lot of flak a few years ago over its blatant discrimination of Black employees when a top-dog conveniently forgot to invite them to her parties. The court ruled in favour of the aggrieved party. It employs refugees on a voluntary basis while the paid employees are predominantly White. Ironically its major funder is the Home Office.

This begs the question how it can act independently. One employee confided to this writer that her pay was quite handsome and she was rather embarrassed about it.

However, they too are bound by the diktat of their funders although their genuine goals are to pinpoint and rectify shortcomings in the governance such as curtailment of free expression, corruption, nepotism, misuse of public funds, politicising and interfering with the judiciary, controlling police powers.

Civil society, independent media and the intelligentsia are too hamstrung to criticise the regime since to a certain extent they are beholden to genuflect before it willingly or unwittingly. The ordinary citizens who do not fit into the above categories are no fools either and it is the latter group which elects a party into power. 

NGOs are alternative and parallel forces to the government but unlike the government and public bodies, NGOs are accountable to their funders to the last penny at least in the West. Charity Commission in the UK is a stringent body which goes through a fine toothcomb how funds are disbursed. Even purchasing a newspaper with NGO funds should be accounted for. 

The government despite its many flaws has legitimate fears the West would use any ammo to control the island and make it a lackey. The NGOs should not barter the island’s sovereignty for mere personal gains.

After all, we as a multi-ethnic society, should stick together in lean times and find ways and means to resolve our own problems. The UNHRC is not out to get us but bring some reprieve post 2009. There is so much to be done to bring redress to the war-ravaged nation and it is in the common interest the government co-operates with the UNHRC and listen to the voice of the moderates be they NGOs, civil society or grass roots organisations. Getting all too emotive and het-up would get us nowhere. 

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at