The government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will not sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in the manner that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed the Norway-sponsored Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE, Minister Dulles Alahapperuma said.
“No one knew about the CFA until Ranil signed it with the LTTE supremo Velupillai Pabhakaran in Vavuniya on February 22, 2002, not even parliament, the government or the public. The Rajapaksa government will never sign the MCC until it is presented and passed in parliament, subjected to a public debate and with necessary amendments," he said.
In a response to a question asked by a journalist at the news briefing, the minister said the government had not taken a firm decision on the MCC yet, whether to reject it or sign it after removing any condition detrimental to the national interests of Sri Lanka.
The dialogue between the minister and journalists was as follows:
Journalist: When are you going to sign the MCC?
Minister Alahapperuma: Who told you that the government was going to sign the MCC?
Journalist: The public perception is that the government is in favour of it because you don’t criticise the MCC now in the same way you did it during the presidential election campaign. In the recent past, your rhetoric on the MCC has come down to a murmur from the earlier stance that the MCC was going destroy Sri Lanka. How and why?
Minister: We have not changed our stance on the MCC but we must study it thoroughly before taking a decision.
Journalist: Now the government members are saying that 70% of the MCC is good for Sri Lanka. You made such a hue and cry only on the bad 30%?
Minister: I am categorically saying that we will never sign it without studying it in full.
Journalist: Tell me please, what is good and what is bad in the MCC.
Minister: I don’t think anyone has studied the MCC agreement in full and therefore no one is capable of making any serious comment.
Another Journalist: Well, anyway, the government will sign it?.
Minister: Who told you or where has the government declared that the MCC will be signed?
Journalist: You don’t talk much about the MCC’s alleged influence on national security and territorial integrity these days. Why?
Minister: We are one of the first members of the UN. Sri Lanka has a national obligation as well as an international obligation when we enter into an agreement like the MCC. What I can assure you is that Sri Lanka will never sign it if it has a negative effect on the national security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.
Journalist: You are signing it anyway?
Minister: Please, don’t take this debate to the level of cheap tongue wagging. This is like gossiping by the village well in our rural parlance. Don’t forget that so many pages were missing from the original document of the MCC agreement the previous government released. But we are going to publish the full text of the MCC agreement for anyone to study it.
Journalist: However, you don’t say whether the government will fully reject and won’t sign the MCC?
Minister: We must first study it. Have anyone of you studied it in full? I don’t think so. Until we go through it in full, we are not in a position to take a decision on the MCC or make comments. (By Sandun A Jayasekera)