(Text of a Press Release Issued by the Public Opinion Committee on March 3rd 2020 Under the Heading “Is the Government all set to sign the MCCC?)
A high-profile member of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact (MCCC) review committee has revealed that the report submitted by them to the President was not prepared according to established process.
A Presidential Committee was appointed to conduct a ‘Comprehensive study on the Millennium Challenge Corporation Project’ and submit recommendations to the Government in mid-February this year. Neither the review Committee’s mandate nor its terms of reference were made public.
Head of the four-member MCCC Committee, Professor Lalithsiri Gunaruwan has disclosed that the Committee did not follow due process, followed an anti-scientific approach ‘going backwards’ from recommendations / conclusions to methodology and implied that only information reinforcing their initial postulate was taken into account, continuing the charade of respecting the views of ordinary people.
Was the MCCC review committee part of a pre-determined agenda? If so, whose? These are legitimate questions that the MCC review committee’s admission poses.
Last month, the MCCC Committee informed the public that its report was final without hearing all stakeholders. On inquiry from the Chairperson of the Committee, it was revealed that although they were mandated to provide a preliminary / inception report, they had decided instead to issue a final report to the President which included the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions. He further confirmed that 99% of the report was completed. However, at the time of completion, critical input from the Attorney-General and a few other key person had not been received, adding that their input may be included subsequently, only if there was anything substantial there, to enrich or negate the Committee’s own position.
The Chairman reiterated that however, the final report would not be fundamentally affected. This is ostensibly a fast-tracking of an agreement that is incompatible with democratic process and amounting to political fraud that would render whatever agreement that is signed democratically illegitimate.
In the run – up to presenting the report to the President, the Committee through a public notice, encouraged individuals, organizations and associations to submit their views or evaluations to the Committee before 15 February 2020. Many submitted their views in writing to the Committee. However, on 17 February 2020 just two days after the deadline for submission, the Committee submitted a ‘final’ report to the President.
Due to the arbitrary manner in which such a serious task was conducted and presented to the President, the public expressed grave reservations and doubts on the independence of the Committee, the legitimacy of its findings and if, as had been intimated, their views and concerns in actual fact had been taken into account in the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions.
In a further display of political chicanery, after submitting its final report to the President, the Committee invited a select group of persons to make further submissions, adding that their comments and suggestions may be included subsequently as an annexure if they deemed it added any value to the final report already presented.
On 27 February 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers noted the supplementary report of the MCCC review committee submitted to the Prime Minister. The report pointed out that there were features that may threaten the national, social and economic welfare of Sri Lanka within certain projects proposed under this programme through the MCC Compact.
Sri Lanka’s experience has been that many previous committees and commissions have not acted with a sense of responsibility, have excluded vital evidence and included evidence bordering on the nebulous. The French Statesman George Clemenceau once famously said “… if you want to bury a problem, appoint a commission…”.
The questionable circumstances surrounding the establishment of the MCCC Review Committee and the manner in which the inquiry was conducted, exposes it rather as a cynical political stratagem to justify signing of the MCCC agreement by this government. If the mountain has given birth to a mouse, it is because, from the beginning, politicians perverted the debate on national identity for electoral purposes. The attempt to insult the intelligence of the people continues with politicians from all sides contradicting their own statements and each other within their own camp. Many Sri Lankans must only feel disgust.
This is a decisive and defining moment for Sri Lanka and the future of its people. We fell for this trick on 1815. The Ingrisi – Sinhale Givisuma ensured that the British would never leave the country. MCC is a modern day version of the Kandyan Convention of 1815. The MCCC during the presidential elections was widely acknowledged by this government, as a “Gift” that would tear up the country and therefore an agreement that would not be signed under any circumstance. Yet, it is now on the path to gradually receiving acceptance by the President and the government, and thereby quietly and effectively paving the way for back – tracking on the promises made to the citizens. If the MCCC is signed, it would undoubtedly be a betrayal once again, of a nation and its people to a foreign power.
The Public Opinion Committee requests for an end to this sinister comedy and restoration of transparency and accountability on the part of the Government on a crucial matter that endangers Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, national identity and economy. As the first step, the Public Opinion Committee calls for reports of both the MCC and the MCC Review Committee to be published in their entirety and a broad public debate launched in every part of the country.
By the Public Opinion Committee