By Saman Indrajith
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday that the Indo-Lanka Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement would be inked by mid-2016 and a special Indian delegation was scheduled to arrive in the country on March 04 to discuss its content.
PM reads The PM said the final draft of the agreement would be prepared after those discussions and could be presented to Parliament. But, he would not let anyone instigate people against the ETCA, he warned.
“By introducing the ETCA, we are promising to give birth to a child whose horoscope has a Raja Yoga. So, do not bother to check the horoscope of the baby not yet born,” he said.
“I instructed Minister Malik Samarawickrama to draft this agreement and make copies and distribute them among all MPs so that we could discuss its content. The street is not the place to debate the content of the agreement. To take the matter to streets is unfair and an insult to the agreement when you can debate it here. We can further discuss the matter when we set up the Sectoral Oversight Committees. There is no meaning in harbouring unfounded fears about this agreement.”
Chief Opposition Whip Anura Kumara Dissanayake: The fears are not unfounded. The subject minister has stated that the agreement will open the IT sector and marine sector to the Indians. He said the framework agreement would be signed in February. So, the concerns we raise here have a strong basis.
Prime Minister: Anyone can come to Sri Lanka and commence business here. But, the investors cannot bring down their people here to work in those businesses. We have a shortage of lecturers. We should make use of the opportunity to bring down qualified lecturers. The salaries of IT personnel in India are higher than ours. So, our IT experts can go there and get higher salaries. Opening the avenues for investment does not mean that people could travel here and there en masse.
NFF Leader Wimal Weerawansa: Doesn’t it mean that the job market will be opened up? We asked for a one-day debate on this matter. We hope the Prime Minister will agree.
Prime Minister: We can discuss the matter when the draft is ready. We are preparing a draft and India, too, is also asked to make one. We can go through both drafts and discuss its content. Technology is a service. We can throw it open. There was a time when the rulers were willing to permit any foreign investment if the investors were willing to pay them five million US dollars. Hambantota is a white elephant. After we bring the ETCA we can turn that white elephant into a green elephant.
UPFA Colombo District MP Bandula Gunawardena: Indians have been permitted to commence an ambulance service with the Health Ministry. Why is that?
Prime Minister: India has a special ambulance service. That service makes use of bicycles to reach the patients and help them if there is a traffic congestion. We plan to introduce this to Sri Lanka. We have given a one-year contract. Thereafter, we take it over and run it ourselves in the Southern and Western Provinces. People will like this. I ask those who oppose it whether they like to see people dying without medical help. We don’t want that to happen.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake: It is reported that this service will commence after bringing in 100 ambulances. Won’t the Sri Lankan government spend a cent on this project? Is it a gift? What is the deal behind this?
Prime Minister: We will inform the House of the content of the agreement. We will have to pay for the services obtained. First, it will come free of charge. We will have to bear the cost of maintenance.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake: That is wonderful. Hundred ambulances are given and taken without calling for tenders and we are to pay for the services.
Prime Minister: If you are asking for information and details we are ready to provide them. We will give details when the Sectoral Oversight Committees are formed.
NFF leader Weerawansa: Can’t you find a local investor for this?
Prime Minister: There is none. Find one for me if possible.
MP Weerawansa: what is the special reason for commencing this ambulance service with India?
Prime Minister: You name a Sri Lankan entrepreneur who can do this. There is none. We know the games you played when you were in power. If I am going to narrate them the people of this country will hate you more.
MP Chandrasiri Gajadheera: Prime Minister says we do not have investors. Have you done a feasibility study to check whether we have local investors?
Prime Minister: I have given my answer. I am not ready to respond to leftists who shout on behalf of the robber capitalist class. There is no Sri Lankan who can do this. If there is give us the name of that person, we can give him a province to operate. We can give him Kandy.
DLF leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara: Who is the robber capitalist?
Prime Minister: I have files on all of you. There is only one true leftist here. That is Dr. Jayamapthy Wickremaratne. He, too, is now in the UNP.