Ceylon Chamber of Commerce calls for explanation from Government over US agreements

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce calls for explanation from Government over US agreements

Written by Staff Writer

03 Jul, 2019 | 9:17 pm

Colombo (News 1st): The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has requested the government to provide an enhanced level of transparency with respect to the proposed Status of Forces Agreement and the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement and their potential consequences.

Issuing a media release expressing concern with regard to the increasing levels of speculation surrounding these proposed agreements, the chamber requests the government to clarify the exact position with regard to the current status of the negotiations and/or execution of these agreements.

The release added while it is inevitable that differences in opinion will prevail, compliance with due process combined with a transparent process encompassing stakeholder consultation will ensure that national interest is protected.

According to Non-Cabinet Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Dr Harsha de Silva, the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement will not have any negative impact on Sri Lanka.

He made this statement through his Twitter account yesterday (July 02) while posting a photograph with U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz.

The Twitter post adds that despite the several attempts to explain facts of the MCC agreement to the President, the non-cabinet minister failed to do so for the past two months.

Dr Harsha de Silva further added that the president should understand the constraints to the development of this country.

In a tweet, the non-cabinet minister also stated that the MCC agreement was developed by Ricardo Haussmann and a group at the University of Harvard along with an economics team to address constraints to growth, dictating what the program should be.

Dr de Silva goes on to say that none of those involved in this regard, were invited for a meeting with the President. A media briefing organized by the non-cabinet minister to explain the MCC agreement was subsequently cancelled.

UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage speaking regarding the matter noted that if Minister Harsha de Silva connected with the general public in a much broader manner, this would not happen to him. de Silva needs to connect with the rural communities and the locals in villages.

He said that they will take legal action against the MCC agreement and its content and after they take this matter to courts, they will convene a media briefing and explain further.

Making a comment on the matter UNP MP Hector Appuhamy said the SOFA agreement was signed in 1994 when Chandrika Bandaranaike served as the President and the Sri Lankan government has not amended this agreement or signed any other SOFA agreement.

However, he said they are currently discussing the matter. He noted that there was a legal issue in this regard and it was requested that if a US citizen commits any wrongdoing in Sri Lanka, legal action should be taken in the US, and this was rejected.

He noted that it was Gotabaya Rajapaksa who signed the ACSA agreement in the past, however, when this agreement was signed then, there was no one to speak against it. He said the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement, is a program that will benefit the country. He pointed out that they will receive financial aid amounting to US$ 480 million for a road development and property reforms program.

Three agreements linked with the USA, namely the SOFA, ACSA, and Millennium Challenge Corporation have been the topic of discussion across the country, in the recent past. It is alleged that the Status of Forces Agreement or the SOFA, includes the provision relating to immunity being provided to foreign servicemen on Sri Lankan soil.

The U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz. recently termed this agreement as the Visiting Forces Agreement or the VFA.

However, the people of this country continue to raise concerns over suspicion that US forces will be permitted to enter Sri Lanka.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation of the US Government approved a five-year grant of US$ 480 million to Sri Lanka, to develop the road network in the country and for property legal reforms.

Critics claim that the prime objective of this agreement is to build an economic corridor with a road network, connecting the Trincomalee Harbor with the Colombo Port.

They claim that the SOFA agreement will give access to US forces to enter Sri Lanka and use the Trincomalee Harbor for logistic purposes.

The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, more commonly known as the ACSA agreement, is a bilateral agreement that allows US forces to exchange supplies and services.

It was this agreement that allowed the transportation of supplies to a US warship docked in the far seas, from the US aircraft parked at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

The ACSA agreement was first signed in 2007 and was subsequently revised in 2017. Senior journalist, Iqbal Athas said that the signing process of the agreement in 2017, was a matter of concern.

Can it still be reiterated that Millenium Challenge Corporation agreement, the SOFA and the ACSA will not permit the entry of foreign forces to Sri Lanka and facilitate the exchange of supplies and services? 

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