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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2762

The Challenges that makes MCCC Challenging

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
Colombo, 03 November, (Asiantribune.com):

Sudden springing of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact should not come as a surprise. It first made an appearance in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Sunday Massacres. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera introduced MCCC as the good that has come out of the 21/4 tragedy. He was obviously bowled over by the promised USD 480 million that the MCCC was to bring in to the country. At the time of this statement, Samaraweera had not realized that the loss to the country from 21/4 was far more significant than the benefits MCCC is offering.

The MCCC is proposing land reforms and better road network that will ease the traffic congestion within Colombo and better inter-Provincial connectivity. However, in the 21/4 tragedy thousand or so lives lost or destroyed. Though all industries were deeply affected, tourism obviously took the hardest hit. Tourism is a Rs 200 billion industry. From MCCC however over the spread of five years, we get projects only of worth around Rs 86.4 billion.

At about the same time that we first heard of the MCCC, we heard of two other agreements with the US - one already signed and the other under serious considerations. ACSA had already been signed in 2017. Though the agreed contents were not made public, the fact that it contained over 80 pages and did not have an exit clause or an expiry date became cause for much concern.

The SOFA Agreement that is under consideration has very grave implications. It offers American soldiers and contractors to come into the country without proper documentation, but only an identification. Once in the country, they are not subject to restriction within the country - they may go anywhere they wish, carry any weapon or equipment and has diplomatic immunity.

Naturally, these agreements created much concern. Instead of any clarification, the proponents of these agreements simply became very silent. The only exception was when US High Commissioner on an Facebook interaction assured that the MCCC is a gift from American people to Sri Lankan people and that this is very much under negotiation. Other than that, the progress of these negotiations had not been made public.

After months of absolute silence, the Cabinet - when the entire country’s attention was on the upcoming presidential election - approves the MCCC and it was reported in the mainstream media that the Cabinet was ready to sign it. The US Embassy was quite thrilled with this announcement. However, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith was not and he was the first to voice his concern.

In a statement His Eminence noted that on 31.05.2019 the highest order of clergy in Sri Lanka after a long discussion has stipulated that any agreement that will affect the future generations must be subject to a referendum. His Eminence stated further that this decision was communicated to the public via mainstream media. However, His Eminence had observed that the MCCC had thus been approved without even the knowledge of the Parliament.

This in essence a repetition of both the Geneva Resolution 30/1 that was signed in 2015 and the Norway-brokered Cease Fire Agreement in 2002. Both these agreements did not do the country any good or bring any benefit to the country, but just the opposite. Both jeopardized national security and in turn the economy of our country.

There is not any assurance that the MCCC would be any different. In fact, MCCC could be worst Agreement we could be signing. The MCCC must be viewed alongside the ACSA Agreement that we had already agreed to abide. As such, according to the known facts in the Agreement, American troops may use our ports and when they visit, we must facilitate them with their food, lodging and transport requirements.

The MCCC must be also viewed alongside the implications of the SOFA Agreement. The SOFA that is to be signed, as mentioned afore, will give unlimited access into our territory to American soldiers and contractors and freedom within the country that they do not enjoy in their own country.

It is not the ACSA and SOFA, but also the consequences of co-sponsoring the Geneva Resolution 30/1 must be taken into account when weighing the effects of MCCC. This Resolution envisages Sri Lanka to have a weak central government without much control over the provincial Councils and a weak security structure.

We must also factor the damage wrought on by the game changing plan to topple the strong nationalist government in 2010. There was a concentrated effort to discredit the political leadership. As things stand today political entities such as Basil Rajapaksa cannot thread the political path.

Therefore, if we were to look at all these Agreements and its consequences as a whole than individually, then what we have is,

- a discredited political leadership

- a persecuted military leadership

- an OMP Office that collect any evidence they see fit, without been answerable to any judicial process in the country

- an Enforced Disappearance Act that allows extradition of our military officers to face tribunals outside Sri Lanka

- a reparations bill that pays compensation to terrorists or their families

- an open invitation to American troops to whom we must provide food, lodging and transport facilities

- a strong military presence within the country

In this background, to have an economic corridor, connecting from Trincomalee Port to Colombo Port does raise concerns especially if it is not clear if Sri Lankan Law prevails within the corridor extent. Even if Sri Lankan Law prevails, the persisting Question is, are we in a position to enforce the agreed conditions in these Agreements if US or their partners chose.

- Asian Tribune -

The Challenges that makes MCCC Challenging
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