‘You are following certain political parties with election agendas’ | Daily News
PM replies Ceylon Chamber Chairman on SOFA, MCC

‘You are following certain political parties with election agendas’

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has questioned the ‘motives’ of the chairman of the powerful Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), the country’s biggest business leadership grouping, in calling for more transparency regarding the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) pact with the United States and, the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ (SOFA) with the US.

The Prime Minister’s Secretary E.M.S.B. Ekanayake has sent a letter to CCC chairman Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya expressing the Premier’s response to the CCC letter which raised issues about governmental transparency in the negotiations over these two pacts between Sri Lanka and the United States of America.

The Prime Minister’s Secretary conveys Mr. Wickremesinghe’s “surprise” over Dr. Wijayasuriya’s claim that the CCC had not been kept adequately informed, because the Government has already held a series of meetings with not only the CCC but also with other business sector as well as NGO representatives and experts from April 2016 up till October 2018. The letter from the Premier’s Secretary reminds Dr. Wijayasuriya about ten such meetings over this period and provides dates and details of the participants.

Furthermore, the Secretary informs the CCC chairman that “there is no SOFA” agreement between the Sri Lankan and US governments and neither is there any proposal to that effect forwarded by any Ministry to the Cabinet.

In this light, Secretary Ekanayake informs the CCC chairman that, in the Premier’s view, “..this brings up the question of your own motives and credibility in following the line taken by certain political parties with their own political agenda for elections”. “Politicization of this reputable business conglomerate under your recent assumption of leadership is to be much regretted,” says Ekanayake.

The full text of the letter from the Prime Minister to the CCC chairman:

“Dear Dr Wijayasuriya: Request for Enhanced Transparency with regard to SOFA & MCC : The Hon. Prime Minister is in receipt of your letter dated 03 July 2019, and is perturbed by the CCC’s express ignorance on the contents of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement (MCC).

You will note that the Government has adhered to the values of good governance and transparency to the CCC and its constituent members were informed of the ongoing negotiations with the MCC on 4 April 2016, 7 April 2016, 8 April 2016, 14 June 2016, 22 June 2016,5 April 2017, 6 April 2017, 9 October to 19 October 2018 and 27 October 2018. (Please see attachment).

You have also been informed of the specific projects coming within the MCC as per the development plan. As you are aware, these projects were proposed by the Government of Sri Lanka. The US Government provided USD 490 million as a grant. After the signing of the compact it had to be presented to Parliament for legislative approval - a legal procedure that is followed in the USA and some continental European countries.

According to the Standing Orders of Parliament, this compact will be reviewed by the Oversight Committee and will be open to the interested parties.

There is no SOFA between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of the USA. There is no such proposal forwarded by the line Ministry, i.e. Defence Ministry, to the Cabinet.

While appreciating the opportunity to reiterate these facts pertaining to these matters, the Prime Minister is also somewhat surprised that the CCC which has been a stakeholder participating in the process is now claiming ignorance. In his view, this brings up the question of your own motives and credibility in following the line taken by certain political parties with their own political agenda for elections.

Politicization of this reputable business conglomerate under your recent assumption of leadership is to be much regretted.” 


 

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