How legal is the Singapore FTA?

How legal is the Singapore FTA?

Written by Staff Writer

17 Aug, 2018 | 9:43 am

COLOMBO (News 1st) -The Sri Lanka – Singapore free trade agreement is generating a lot of buzz these days because of the confusion surrounding the deal. There has been plenty of allegations levelled by professional bodies with regard to clauses of the agreement.

It seems that in addition to the general public, even ministers of the Good Governance Government are confused about this agreement as showcased by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who contradicted himself during a media briefing held on Thursday (Aug 16th).

Minister of Ports and Shipping, Mahinda Samarasinghe speaking on the FTA stated that President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed a committee of experts to analyse the agreement and provide a report within 2 months. The Minister noted that the President would share the recommendations of this expert committee with the Cabinet and could even table it in Parliament.

Samarasinghe added that even though the FTA had been signed with the approval of the cabinet as well as the Attorney General, amendments could be made to the agreement within one year of the signing.

THE CONTRADICTION

The Minister managed to get through his prepared remarks without a hitch and during that he stated that the FTA had received cabinet approval, however the contradictions arouse when journalists began to question the Minister.

Mahinda Samarasinghe noted that the Sri Lanka – Singapore FTA is currently active as it had been signed legally. However, in his follow-up statement, the minister let slip that the agreement had been signed illegally without cabinet approval. It is a bit confusing how an agreement that did not receive cabinet approval is considered to be a legitimate agreement.

The journalists then questioned whether the international agreement was approved by Parliament. Responding to this query, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that he had inquired about the matter from Min. Malik Samarawickrama, the man who spearheaded the drive to sign the FTA, and that Samarawickrama had said that there is no legal requirement to present such agreements to Parliament.

When questioned whether Min. Malik Samarawickrama was playing fast and loose with the law, Min. Samarasinghe jumped to the rescue of his cabinet colleague stating that the agreement was signed with cabinet approval.

THE BETRAYAL

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake addressing a public rally in Ratnapura questioned whether the agreement that was signed by PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Min. Malik Samarawickrama received approval from Parliament. He questioned whether the duo engaged in any form of discussion with the professional bodies with regard to the services that they were liberalising.

Anura Kumara stated that through the FTA, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Malik Samarawickrama had betrayed the country. He added that they are currently seeking legal assistance to look into whether such an agreement could be signed without the consent of Parliament.

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