Written by Ramesh Irugalbandara
15 May, 2018 | 11:25 pm
Colombo (News1st) : It is no secret that Sri Lanka signed a free trade agreement with Singapore in January this year. However, the contents of this free trade agreement remained shrouded in ministry for quite some time. Professionals who got their hands on the FTA document realised the danger of rushing into such an agreement and as such filed several FR petitions against it. The final hurdle for this FTA is parliamentary ratification which it is yet to receive. The battle between the professionals of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, that is spearheading this agreement for the Government is reaching its crescendo.
The United Professionals Movement (UPM) convened a media briefing today to highlight the glaring issues that they have identified in this FTA. Aruna Bandara, Technical Committee Coordinator of the UPM described this FTA something which could facilitate the largest fraud in the country. He says the agreement removes import taxes imposed on a number of items within a set time frame, for example, he said that import taxes on Paddy would be done away within 12 years. Bandara noted that doing away with these taxes those responsible for importing such goods are lining their pockets with what would have been Government revenue.
UPM’s media spokesperson Gamini Gunawardene noted that the administration has broken three key promises that they had given to professionals in the country. According to Gunawardene the Government had promised to create a policy with regard to international trade, conduct studies to determine the long-term impacts of entering into trade agreements and create a framework to ensure the equal rights of all professionals, none of which had been done before entering into this agreement.
Former President of the Professionals Association of Sri Lanka, Thilina Kirinda had a look of disbelief on him as he told the media that the caretakers of this country who were elected by the people have ignored the voices of the citizens, professionals and academics when they entered into this agreement. He remarked that they seem to be working according to their own agendas.
Kulatunga Rajapaksa of the Maubima Lanka Foundation described the FTA as a document which is biased towards Singapore. According to Rajapaksa Sri Lanka never faced a barrier in boosting exports to Singapore, however with the liberalisation of the market through the FT, Singapore will be able to export their goods to Sri Lanka freely.
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ayurvedic Officials Union, Dr. Nimal Karunasiri joined the media briefing and took aim at subject minister Malik Samarawickrama. He noted that Samarawickrama had deceived the people of this country and had acted as if the country was his personal property when signing the FTA with Singapore.
Joining the Face the Nation program on TV1 on Monday (May 14th) Dr. Ananda Ranasinghe, Past President of the Professionals Association noted that the agreement is extremely dangerous for this country because if ever the Government wants to backtrack on this agreement they would be forced to pay a hefty sum due to the binding nature of this international accord. He stated that the officials in charge of creating this FTA for Sri Lanka may have been ignorant to the fact that their actions could end up completely shutting down some industries in the country.
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