Prof. Tissa Vitarana
President Gotabhaya Rajapakse had requested the Cabinet of Ministers to submit their opinions on the Prof.Lalithasiri Gunaruwan Report on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement with the USA. This has now been extended for a further two weeks. Though not a Cabinet Minister, but as the leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which is a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Podujana Alliance (SLFPA), I wish to express the opinion of the LSSP on this controversial proposal.
The LSSP views the MCC agreement, and the two other related agreements (ACSA & SOFA), as totally opposed to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and that the SLFPA Government should not sign any of them if it wishes to safeguard the real interest of Sri Lanka and its people.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) had correctly opposed the MCC agreement while in the Opposition as it would divide the country and have other ill effects.
Accordingly the President had appointed the Gunaruwan Committee to submit a report. In this Report the Committee has pointed out the dangers of the MCC agreement to our sovereignty and territorial integrity and that it violates our Constitution and Laws. It also mentions the fact that the American company that would be preparing the digital register of all land holdings in the North and other areas would be able to get possession of a huge extent of land for foreign exploitation. The entire profits could be sent abroad. The Gunaruwan Committee is to be congratulated for producing a factual and comprehensive document which highlights the dangers to the country.
The passing reference in the Committee Report to the fact that they had come across some references to USD 10 million in some documents which needed to be looked into, was pounced upon by the US Embassy in Sri Lanka and by the USA’s political agent in Sri Lanka, UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, to be used as a red herring to discredit the report. Whether this sum was paid or received in advance is irrelevant to the charges made by the Gunaruwan Report, which nevertheless retains it validity. There are several countries that have suffered badly as a result of MCC agreements. Some of these are also mentioned in the Gunaruwan Committee Report.
There was a report in the Daily News on 8th July 2020 of a study by a top accountancy firm Ernst & Young on the land and other subjects covered by the MCC agreement. The report adds that, beside the privately owned or cultivated land, “a significance portion of the land comes under the purview and protection of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Forestry of Sri Lanka”. In this connection, another news report says that 500,000 hectares (28% of the total forest land in the Island) is being considered for privatization in the North.
It must be mentioned that there is a report of an investigation into the activities of Ernst & Young done in 2016 that describes how Ernst & Young, and three other major accountancy firms, had been used by the EU and IMF to use the economic crisis to impose privatization of state owned assets on indebted countries in Europe, despite mass resistance. They made huge profits and were also able to acquire vast wealth by under-valuing assets and reselling them. The promised revenue to the indebted states was not realized. The wages and working conditions of the recruited staff was at reduced rates, thereby increasing income inequality in those countries.
Therefore the SLFPA Government should not under any circumstances sign the MCC agreement. As this agreement has the unusual requirement that some of the conditions have to be implemented prior to signing the agreement, it would appear that these conditions are already being implemented. These should all be stopped and reversed forthwith in the interest of our country and our people.
ACSA and SOFA agreements
The above agreements are military agreements that are thrust on our countries by the USA. The Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement (ACSA) is an agreement which allows American troops coming from outside to make use of our airports, harbours and military facilities and also engage in joint maneuvers with the Sri Lankan forces. They can also engage in bilateral and multilateral military exercises.
The Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) has been signed periodically with over 80 countries throughout the world by the USA. These can vary from country to country and from time to time. In response to a question asked by the Mahanayaka of the Malwatte Chapter on 24th May 2019, referring to the ongoing discussion between the UNP and USA Governments on the SOFA agreement, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ms.Teplitz, stated that it was “to allow US forces to tour the country and to conduct combined security operations”. But in fact an unlimited number of US troops will be allowed to enter Sri Lanka wearing uniform with guns in hand and accompanied by heavy armaments at any time they wish to come. They will be given all diplomatic privileges and whatever they bring cannot be examined by Sri Lankan officials.
They have to be given access to enter any institution or premises that they desire to enter at any time. If they commit any crime they cannot be tried by Sri Lankan Courts, but only by Courts in the USA. They are not liable to pay any taxes or duty on anything they import or export. The American troops will be free to move to any part of the country, at any time without prior permission.
With our small armed forces Sri Lanka will not be able to get rid of the US troops if they wish to stay on in the country. The USA can make Sri Lanka a military base and the whole country a colony. If we agree to these terms we shall loose our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Thus, it is extremely worrying when Cabinet spokesman, Minister Bandula Gunawardene, is reported to have stated at a media briefing, while denying signing the MCC agreement, that the Government has entered into ACSA and SOFA agreements with the US Government.
The situation is made more disturbing when newspapers report that Basil Rajapakse allegedly mentioned that if this has been stated by Bandula Gunawardene then it could be correct.
I earnestly request the President and the Prime Minister to make a categorical statement denying the above newspaper reports if they are not true, and to reassure the people that the Government has no intension of signing or implementing the MCC, ACSA and SOFA agreements.