A Nationalist organisation is saying that if President Gotabaya Rajapaksa signs the controversial Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) he will “be committing political suicide.”
Addressing a press conference in Colombo, on Tuesday, July 7, the General Secretary of the Patriotic National Movement Dr Wasantha Bandara said it is clear the President will not enter into this agreement.
The press conference held in Colombo was organized by the Federation of National Organisations, of which Bandara is a member.
Bandara told EconomyNext today July 8 that the committee the President appointed to review the United States funded MCC agreement comprised people who vocally opposed the deal when the former government was moving towards signing up.
He said Professor Lalithasiri Gunaruwan who headed the committee reported correctly about the agreement that it violates the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
“If the President intended to sign the agreement he would have appointed a committee comprising members of the Pathfinder Foundation like (Admiral) Jayanath Colombage,” Bandara said.
In fact, EconomyNext is aware of a study on economic recovery in which the Pathfinder Foundation, a think tank, submitted to the President earlier in the year did recommend that Sri Lanka “not be ideological” and sign not only the MCC deal but also carry on with the Singapore Trade Agreement.
The President’s party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna bitterly opposed both deals during the last Presidential elections.
Opposition to the MCC was the main plank of the SLPP platform with nationalists like Bandara saying that if the deal goes through the people of the South of the country would have to get American visas to go on pilgrimage to the Buddhist holy sites in the North Central Province.
Gunaruwan, Bandara said, “was allowed to air his views in a TV interview and also hold a Press Conference, and thus explain his findings to the General Public.”
“This has created an opinion in the minds of the public that the MCC deal is not good for this country. Therefore the President cannot go back and sign the agreement, that is why I said it would be political suicide for him,” Bandara told EconomyNext.
Bandara also took a swipe at former Minister Mangala Samaraweera saying that he was “distracting the nation” by bringing up issues that are of no relevance.
Samaraweera, who says he has eschewed electoral politics, says he has no respect for Gunaruwan or the other members of the President’s review committee. “They are not qualified and one of them has a fake degree,” Samaraweera said on an interview program on the Hiru TV channel.
He said that the MCC was first proposed to Sri Lanka when Ranil Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister in 2003 when he met President George Bush at the White House.
Thereafter when Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President in 2005, Samaraweera was Foreign Minister and he was instructed by to travel to Washington and take the MCC agreement forward.
“I had a meeting with Condoleeza Rice the Secretary of State and we agreed to sign the agreement in New York where both President Bush and our President would be present for the General Assembly sessions,” Samaraweera recalled.
“However because there were Human Rights violations, the White Van (abductions) culture was introduced and critical politicians were murdered, the US did not move forward on the agreement,” he said.
Bandara does not agree. He said a delegation from the US did arrive in Sri Lanka and held discussions with the then Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Mahinda Rajapaksa took a decision he would not sign the agreement.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a contractor to the United States Congress to disburse aid aimed at improving conditions in developing countries.
It is present in over 45 countries around the world aiming to raise the Gross Domestic Product of the host.
In Sri Lanka, MCC plans to disburse a grant of US$ 480mn which is to be spent on building a state-of-the-art traffic control system for the Greater Colombo area as well as a survey and digitizing of all land in the country.