Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday challenged the SLPP and the opposition to show a single clause, paragraph, sentence or word in the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement that indicated the sale of land to the US or establishment of an American military base in Sri Lanka.
“Don’t try to make a ‘Goni Billa’ (Jinni) out of this extremely-beneficial agreement to the people of Sri Lanka. Come clean and show us if there is a single word detrimental to Sri Lanka’s interests,” he said, addressing a news briefing held last afternoon at his ministry.
“The joint opposition, SLPP members and bankrupt leftists have a habit of making ‘Billas’ out of sheer jealousy and political expediency every time Sri Lanka signs an agreement with a foreign country or global organisation. You may remember what members of the joint opposition, certain political Bhikkhus and the disdainful GMOA said when the government launched India-aided free ambulance service ‘Suwasariya – 1990’ a couple of years ago. They said it was a move to establish a branch of India’s secret service ‘RAW’ in Sri Lanka, part of Indian expansionism, medical equipment in the ambulance may take fire and all in it will burn, the crew, the driver, doctors, nurses and supporting staff would be Indians.
“Despite all these malicious and contemptuous lies, Suwasariya has today become a blessing to all Sri Lankans. When the Voice of America (VOA) came to Sri Lanka in 1988, these people said the government was to sell Sri Lanka to US. Even the Bishop of Chilaw, Frank Marcus, protested to VOA saying it was a betrayal of the country to lease out 400 acres to VOA and a move to bring CIA to Sri Lanka.
"These prophets of doom created a Muslim Billa following the April 21 terrorist attacks on a few churches and deluxe hotels. During the civil war, they created a Tamil Billa making way for their own thugs to attack innocent Tamil and Muslim civilians. The Finance Ministry has released the full agreement to be inked with the US. Now the ball is in the court of the SLPP and JO. Show the country a single word in the document that affects the country,” he said.
He said the pact was submitted to the Cabinet last week and received the nod because the MCC management told Sri Lanka to get approval at least from the Cabinet before December as the board of directors was scheduled to meet on December 2.
“The next MCC meeting will be in March 2020. That is why the MCC agreement obtained the Cabinet nod. It was not done in haste. However, I assure you that the MCC agreement will only be signed after tabled in parliament, debated and if necessary amendments introduced. We have nothing to hide. The signing will definitely be after the presidential poll and under Sajith Premadasa’s administration. Therefore, I request people to study the document thoroughly and then make constructive comments with fact and figures, without making vituperative remarks and uttering third-grade lies to hoodwink unsuspecting people for cheap political gains. Where is this so-called corridor to sell lands at Rs.180 a perch? Where is the US is going to set up a military base? Could someone please point it out to me using the document.
“The two main projects under the MCC pact were to develop and modernise the transportation sector and road network in several provinces and also digitise land distribution and ownership deeds. A small country like Sri Lanka cannot go forward without the assistance of major powers like the US, EU and highly-developed countries including China, Russia, Japan, Korea, Australia and India. A big portion of our exports is to the US and our foreign exchange comes mainly from exports to these countries. It was the US that first prohibited the LTTE in 1997. It influenced the EU to do the same,” he said.
Responding to another question on whether there was any condition in the agreement for Sri Lanka, he agreed saying, “Yes, we are required to protect fundamental, human and labour rights and promote the concept of good governance and democracy under the MCC pact.” (Sandun A. Jayasekera)
Pix by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe