By a Special Correspondent
Out of 1,428 registered Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the island, no one would find the organization – Gnanam Foundation (GF), UK, listed in there. However, it is actively operating in the island.
GF is no relation to another foundation bearing the famed surname of the famed philanthropist, the late A.Y.S. Gnanam, also currently in operation in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, the so called GF, the subject of this article, is an independent charity organization, solely funded by Lycamobile owned by Jaffna-born controversial figure, new to the UK ‘elite circle’, Subaskaran Alliraja.
He has been shunned from being the producer of South Indian movie Vijay starrer Kaththi that is to be released next month amidst massive protests from the very beginning. His name was pronounced as the producer of the movie.
In related developments, National Secretariat of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) has ‘no’ details of GF on their website. There are 1,428 NGOs registered, but not GF.
When this was inquired from an official at the NGO Secretariat, he said GF is not registered with the Secretariat.
When asked why, he replied and said he has no answer for it.
Ceylon Today contacted Lycamobile or Lycatel UK Group Deputy Chairman Prem Sivasamy to verify if the Foundation is registered under the secretariat?
Sivasamy said, “GF is a 100% registered organization and it functions under all terms and conditions of the Sri Lankan government.”
Although Sivasamy claimed that the Foundation is registered; there is no clue as to where the Foundation’s head office is located in Sri Lanka. When a search was conducted on the internet, it directed to a place somewhere close to Chaitya Road, Colombo, but referred to no proper address or street on Google map.
Why such secrecy if it’s a bona fide NGO, one may ask? If their charity is so special and renowned, why can’t they exhibit their yeoman service to people and welcome others to join their terrific mission?
Being just four years old in charity and having effectively completed its first phase of projects worth Rs 589 million, GF has already committed Rs. 3,000 million for identified charitable projects in 11 districts for its second phase, this Foundation claimed.
Such operations in phases are going on, yet, the organization is not registered, and how did the officials ignore this, is pretty much a concern.
Many NGOs in Sri Lanka are ‘keen’ to expose their work as a transparent exercise. Such publicity is also as an awareness programme to ‘raise funds from the West.’
But what kind of an operation does GF carry out? No one knows how to contact them. On their website all what you have is to drop a note to a mailbox in the inbox (‘UK by the way’) if you need to be contacted, paving the way for alleged suspicion. Several emails sent by the writer with inquiries have been not responded thus far.
The government went against most of the NGOs saying it was supporting the Tamil Diaspora, but the very same GF is funded by the Tamil Diaspora. That is also another twist to the puzzle.
The Registration of NGOs was brought under the purview of the Defence Ministry with effect from 2010.
Last year the Government Information Department appointed a special board of intellectuals to probe charges and allegations being made against NGOs and their operations and has made it compulsory for all NGOs to register.
The need to focus on NGOs mounted on seeing the plethora of NGOs sprouting up. Government alleged that they were ‘hatching conspiracies’ and engaging in politics in the guise of doing social work in the country.
Government found it ‘too much to bear’ and called all NGOs to register with the National Secretariat of NGOs last year.
Government went ahead ‘thwarting’ all NGOs working unregistered in Sri Lanka. NGOs interpreted this move as being ‘unsupportive’ of the government.
However, GF is on a ‘free will’ journey. They are distributing bicycles, schoolbooks, school buses and huge amounts of Sterling Pounds with no proper accountability.
They are with VIPs seen “now and then, here and there” in the island, but no one is questioning GF, several NGOs said.
It was said that there were NGOs which evaded the registration with the Defence Ministry and instead have registered as non-profit organizations with the Registrar of Companies, leading to confusion, wherein, leading to the ‘proper’ registration of NGOs came into being.
NGOs are also called to declare their assets and register with the relevant unit of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
According to the GF website, it was founded in December 2010 by Subaskaran Allirajah, Chairman Lycamobile, together with his mother Gnanambikai Allirajah. The objective of the organization is to provide help to marginalized communities and those who have been ‘forgotten.’
The website further said: “Subaskaran’s mission is to continue to develop Lycamobile to be the global leader in providing telecoms, financial services, travel and entertainment products and services to international, ethnic and immigrant communities, ensuring customers are provided with low-cost, high-quality products and services.
In December 2010 Subaskaran founded GF in an effort to give back to impoverished communities by providing support to orphans, women and men who’ve lost their livelihood and also to the elderly who have been abandoned.
His Foundation has committed £1m over a four year period to the British Asian Trust, Prince Charles’s charity for South Asia.
Some of his charity works in the Northern Province include the uplift of retail shops – Stationery items, grocery shops, bakeries and garments.
Assistance to pottery manufacture, cash crop cultivation, motorcycle repair shops, batik production, cement block makers, goldsmiths, workshops, inland fishing, catering, poultry, livestock development, handicrafts, home gardening, carpentry and three wheeler drivers.
The patron of Lyca GF Gnanambikai Allirajah together with Chairman, Lycamobile and Lyca’s GF, Subaskaran Allirajah, Deputy Chairman Lycamobile Prem Sivasamy and Lycamobile CEO Chris Tooley recently launched their second phase at newly opened administrative offices in eight districts in the North and the East.
The geographical locations selected to project implementation are Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Puttalam, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, and Vavuniya districts. These locations will be clustered into three groups for easy project implementation purposes.
Accordingly, Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts will come under Cluster 1, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa Districts (Cluster 2) and Mannar, Puttalam and Vavuniya Districts (Cluster 3).
A 40-member team with eight officers will be the implementers of those projects.
The second phase includes a new project titled “Education and Livelihood support for the Vulnerable Communities” aiming to help 10,000 needy children and 660 families each year. Accordingly, 55 families each from 11 districts will be identified and funded for livelihood support to ensure that they generate sustainable income to eradicate poverty at home.
Even five years after the war end, people in the North and the East (NE) are still looking for donations and assistance from the government and donor communities.
As the anticipated assistance was not forthcoming for the past five long years, and the living conditions in these former war-zones continue to remain the same or further deteriorating with increased poverty, the communities in the NE, especially the younger generation and children continue to face many socio-economic hardships without any answers in sight.
Internal migration to other parts of the island with many risks associated, illegal migration, increase in child labour, and other forms of abuse are some of the issues that are currently affecting the development and integration of this younger generation, said GF.