PM questions business chamber’s motive in calling for more transparency in MCC and SOFA with US

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has questioned the motive of Sri Lanka’s Premier business chamber, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), in calling for “enhanced level of transparency” with respect to the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Agreement with the United States when the Chamber was fully informed of the MCC arrangement.

In a letter sent to the Chairman of the CCC, Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya by the Prime Minister’s Secretary E.M.S.B. Ekanayake, the Premier said he is “perturbed” by the CCC expressing ignorance on the contents of the SOFA and MCC.

The Prime Minister’s letter pointed out to the new chairman of the CCC that the Government has adhered to the values of good governance and transparency on the MCC to the CCC and its constituent members on several occasions since 2016.

The Premier also noted that according to the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Millennium compact will be reviewed by the Oversight Committee and will be open to the interested parties.

“While appreciating the opportunity to reiterate these facts pertaining to these matters, the Prime Minister is also somewhat surprised that the CCC which has been a stakeholder participating in the process is now claiming ignorance,”

The Ceylon Chamber in a letter dated July 03 expressing its concern with regard to the increasing levels of speculation among its Membership and society at large on the consequences surrounding the proposed SOFA and the MCC agreement called on the government to provide an enhanced level of transparency with respect to these agreements and their potential consequences and also to clarify the exact position with regards to the current status of the negotiations and/or execution of these agreements.

“While appreciating the opportunity to reiterate these facts pertaining to these matters, the Prime Minister is also somewhat surprised that the CCC which has been a stakeholder participating in the process is now claiming ignorance,” the letter said questioning the chairman’s motive.

“In his view, this brings up the question of your own motives and credibility in following the line taken by certain political parties with their own political agenda for elections.”

The full text of the letter from the Prime Minister to the CCC chairman:

Dear Dr Wijayasuriya: Request for Enhanced Transparency with regard to SOFA & MCC : The Hon. Prime Minister is in receipt of your letter dated 03 July 2019, and is perturbed by the CCC’s express ignorance on the contents of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement (MCC).

You will note that the Government has adhered to the values of good governance and transparency to the CCC and its constituent members were informed of the ongoing negotiations with the MCC on 4 April 2016, 7 April 2016, 8 April 2016, 14 June 2016, 22 June 2016, 5 April 2017, 6 April 2017, 9 October to 19 October 2018 and 27 October 2018. (Please see attachment).

You have also been informed of the specific projects coming within the MCC as per the development plan. As you are aware, these projects were proposed by the Government of Sri Lanka. The US Government provided USD 490 million as a grant. After the signing of the compact it had to be presented to Parliament for legislative approval – a legal procedure that is followed in the USA and some continental European countries.

According to the Standing Orders of Parliament, this compact will be reviewed by the Oversight Committee and will be open to the interested parties.

There is no SOFA between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of the USA. There is no such proposal forwarded by the line Ministry, i.e. Defense Ministry, to the Cabinet.

While appreciating the opportunity to reiterate these facts pertaining to these matters, the Prime Minister is also somewhat surprised that the CCC which has been a stakeholder participating in the process is now claiming ignorance. In his view, this brings up the question of your own motives and credibility in following the line taken by certain political parties with their own political agenda for elections.

Politicization of this reputable business conglomerate under your recent assumption of leadership is to be much regretted.

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