Elections come and go. People and parties come to power. They come and go. Agreements sometimes have longer shelf lives. This is why we have to be very worried about the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact which Cabinet approved recently. Sure, it’s a ‘project’ that was mooted a long time ago, negotiations having begun way back in 2001 when at that time too Ranil Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister. However, time has not lessened its controversial nature.
The US Government and the MCC have maintained that it’s a Sri Lanka-led process, meaning that the document was authoured by Sri Lankans. The Government has maintained that it is an agreement that will benefit Sri Lanka.
Strangely, though, neither of these two ‘camps’ have bothered to make public the document, even in draft form. Perhaps it is not ‘strange’ given the sway that the USA has over this government and especially the UNP. Perhaps it is not strange given that Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, has always held the USA in high esteem and given the impression that he is the point man in Sri Lanka for US interests of all kinds, political, military and economic. Perhaps it is not strange that that this decision was made with a major election just two weeks away. Perhaps it is not strange that the USA has wanted this agreement as well as SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) and ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) signed this year (meaning ‘before the election).
What it means is that the USA, known to be risk-averse in such matters, possibly sensed a regime change. If the MCC Compact could wait for 18 years, why not a further three weeks? If SOFA and ACSA are Sri Lanka-friendly agreements, why should the USA (and not Sri Lanka) push them so ferociously? And if they were so harmless why is the USA and the United National Party (UNP) so cagey about them? Why keep things under wraps until the last moment? Should we not conclude that they have reached a point where they can’t wait any longer? ‘Couldn’t wait any longer,’ because they have a good sense of what might transpire on November 16, 2019, shouldn’t we conclude?
"This is why Sajith Premadasa must make a statement about the MCC compact. Will he go along with it in the event he becomes President? Will he scuttle it?"
This Government is out of order. Just to keep things in perspective Sajith Premadasa is part of this Government. He is a Cabinet Minister. He has not raised one word of objection to the MCC Compact, SOFA or ACSA. Well, he has not raised any questions regarding the Central Bank bond scam either. Nothing about corruption, nepotism, rank incompetence and abuse of state resources either. In fact he has abused his authority in his little ministerial empire, so one could argue that he doesn’t have the moral authority to question cabinet colleagues.
It is the secrecy and the almighty hurry to see the MCC Compact through before November 16 that makes it scandalous. The document itself is heavy. What was ‘released’ are the sunshine parts, obviously. The devil will be in the detail and rest assured these details will come out. BEFORE THE ELECTION. Sajith who is the Yahapalana candidate and who is made of the Yahapalana DNA will be held accountable, rest assured.
The genes tell a story. It’s not the father-to-son thing that we are talking about here. It’s the truth of association and partaking that Sajith cannot escape from. He is for better or worse the Yahapalana baby. The Yahapalana voice. He cannot run away from the last five years of misrule and incompetence. He cannot pretend he was not part of that party.
This is why Sajith Premadasa must make a statement about the MCC compact. Will he go along with it in the event he becomes President? Will he scuttle it? Election outcome notwithstanding, he has to speak up. He has to defend it or condemn it. The problem is that he has offered his silent consent by way of being a member of the Cabinet that approved it!
But this is bigger than Sajith Premadasa. This is bigger than his campaign, which is providing laughs that make Maithripala Sirisena’s and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s foot-in-mouth statements seem halfway intelligent. In short it is no laughing matter.
The Yahapalana Government turned the term ‘good governance’ into a cuss-word. The UNP was supposed to do wonders with the economy. Wickremesinghe and his team claimed that they inherited a massive debt burden. Well, they’ve made it worse, haven’t they? They talked of mismanagement and waste. Pruning waste would yield enough for massive economic turnaround and amazing development, we were told. Zilch on the ground. The growth rate (by which the UNP’s neoliberals swear) is abysmal, with only Afghanistan’s performance being worse. No wonder that not a single big-name businessman attended the much hyped ‘business forum’ organized by Sajith Premadasa’s campaign team. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s event was packed to capacity, not by ‘brought-in’ crowds but people seen as business leaders.
It’s the ordinary folks who count, however, when it comes to an election. They are certainly not cheering the Yahapalana Government. Even if we counted out the wrecking of national security that facilitated the Easter Sunday attacks, the disappointment and even disgust is palpable on the city streets and in the villages (those places that Colombots, Funded Voices, Born Again Democrats, Candlelight Ladies and other Kolombians are ignorant about).
The MCC could, theoretically, make for a far more pronounced (and abiding) US footprint on the island. And the USA is NOT Sri Lanka’s friend. Nothing demonstrates this more than the machinations of that country in Geneva, interestingly supported by people like Mangala Samaraweera who literally wrote the country into a hole with Resolution 30/1 of the UNHRC.
There’s an apt Sinhala saying about the destructive ways of those on their way out: hk hld fldry;a ì|f.k hkjd (yana yakaa korahath bindagena yanava). The ‘going devil’ will wreck everything before he leaves. Is that the story of the Sajith Premadasa’s Cabinet approving the MCC Compact? The wrecking is disturbing, obviously. It also means that there’s a devil on the way out. Small consolation but consolation nevertheless.