US Ambassador Aliana Teplitz is agitated. The lady is in a hurry. She has written to President Maithripala Sirisena seeking his intervention to ensure Cabinet approves the proposed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact agreement between the two countries.
Well, we know that the MCC is just one of the three agreements currently under discussion. The others are the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the Acquisition and the Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). More on all these later. For now, let’s talk about Aliana’s missive.
She has stated that the US is committed to an open and transparent partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka. She has alluded to her country’s investments in Sri Lanka and has talked about various benefits.
Now is she assuming that there’s no one in the President’s office capable of reading the draft agreements that are being discussed behind closed doors? That is not transparency on the part of the Government, but then again that is not something she needs to worry about.
We are not a happy nation, when it comes to representation. We are not a happy nation when we look at the people who make decisions that could have disastrous outcomes for ourselves and our children.
The question is one of urgency. Why is Aliana in such a hurry? What is agitating her so much that she has to write such a heartbreaking plea to the President?
The answer to these questions may be found in the recent assurance given by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. He said that none of these agreements would be signed this year.
Well, that means, technically, they could be signed in 2020. Why can’t Aliana wait? What’s this great hurry-love for Sri Lanka? Surely, a few months delay will not wreck the ‘development’ she is marketing? After all it’s not as though we can go further down the tube courtesy yahapalalana incompetence, theft and rank idiocy! So why can’t she wait? Here’s a probable answer.
Aliana could be worried that come 2020 the yahapalana lot would be out of power. Ranil Wickremesinghe, a known receiver of US dictum (who, to his credit, hasn’t gone ga-ga as yet over these agreements), might no longer
be the Premier. Mangala Samaraweera, whose genuflection before the West is legendary, in such an eventuality would be out of the decision-making equation as well. Maybe it is not ‘could’ but really ‘most certainly would’ in terms of the electoral outcome.
So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not about love. No country loves another; countries take care of interests and if other countries are arm-twisted or fooled into playing the idiot all the better. In this instance, one player (the USA) has the arsenal to destroy the world several times over and the bucks to buy agreements (declining, sure, but still with considerable purchasing capacity) while the other (Sri Lanka) is not only economically weak but is burdened by a mindless, clueless regime whose signature attribute is a slave-mentality when it comes to the West.
It is not that a different government would be, well, ‘different’ but these are ‘friends’ and it is also easier to do business (or extract edge) with friends as opposed to the possibility of having to deal with a regime made of people you have spent a lot of bucks to oust not too long ago. Interesting, in the context, is the fact that Aliana had also paid a courtesy call on Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. We don’t know what they talked about, but it will not be out of order to presume that the lady is covering bases, hedging bets.
Forget Aliana, she’s doing her job. How about the Government? It is supposed to take care of the people’s interest. Some ministers have rubbished those who have raised objections to these agreements saying ‘no such agreement has been signed’ and asking ‘if you have not seen the documents, how can you oppose it?’ Valid points. On the other hand, why cannot the Government release the draft agreement or the US proposal(s)? Why be so opaque about it?
Well, that means, technically, they could be signed in 2020. Why can’t Aliana wait? What’s this great hurry-love for Sri Lanka? Surely, a few months delay will not wreck the ‘development’ she is marketing?
In the absence of transparency we have to assess these things in terms of track records. The history of the USA needs no repetition; a rogue state if ever there was one. The history of the United National Party (UNP), the principal mover with regard to these agreements, is not exactly celebratory. Deceit, secrecy and sycophancy are typical markers of agreements signed by UNP-led regimes, the most recent being the UNHRC Resolution 30/1. That was Mangala’s baby and therefore it is laughable when he says ‘I stand by the agreements and take full responsibility’. Easy words. Cheap words. Especially when you don’t have to deal with the consequences of downright chicanery and treachery.
Government spokespersons have dismissed opposition to SOFA and ACSA saying they were agreements that are being ‘renewed’. This is a blatant lie. As P.K. Balachandran has pointed out it’s not a matter of changing the date on which agreements expire. THEY ARE NEW DOCUMENTS. In the case of the ACSA, it’s an 83-page text with more than 50 appendices. Moreover it is open-ended, with no time limit apart from a provision for ending it with either party giving 180 days notice. A lot can happen in a single day; a lot more in 180!
SOFA is a nice acronym. Sounds comfy. Is it, though? What’s in the small print? Where’s the document? Why is this good-governance government so scared to make public the draft that’s being discussed? It’s the same with the MMC. We need the details. Why is the government so cagey?
We are not a happy nation, when it comes to representation. We are not a happy nation when we look at the people who make decisions that could have disastrous outcomes for ourselves and our children. This government is not making us happy on most counts and that’s probably why Aliana is so agitated. She’s scared, perhaps, just as her yahapalana friends are about political outcomes that are distasteful and which could sink or at least make it that much harder to stuff agreements such as SOFA, ACSA and MMC down the country’s proverbial throat.