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Rush, lack of transparency by Govt. over FTA with Singapore under fire


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Colombo city

United Professionals Movement (UPM) member Architect Nalaka C. Jayaweera has written to the Secretary of the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) alleging a lack of transparency over the finalisation of the free trade agreement with Singapore and criticised the Government’s haste.

The basis for Jayaweera’s complaint is the ministry rushing the minutes of a stakeholder consultation meeting held in 27 October 2017 after a delay of over two months, stating that it was akin to rushing the FTA with Singapore, which is expected to be signed this week in Colombo during the visit of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Following is the full text of Jayaweera’s letter through UPM and the Organization of Professional Association Sri Lanka (OPA) to MODSTI Secretary Chandanie Wijewardana dispatched last week. The letter has been copied to the Secretary to the President, the Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers, the Secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Director General of the Department of Commerce.

 

“Let me appreciate, congratulate and salute for your efficiency, effectiveness, capability, capacity and high level of professionalism in public administration for releasing the minutes of the meeting on 06.01.2018 of a meeting held on 27.10.2017 or after 10 weeks or more than 2 months or 70 days. This clearly expresses and interprets the speediness, accuracy and punctuality of your Ministry in terms of the international trade and trade liberalisation consultative process.  

Further, you and your staff are absolutely marvelous for the workload done based on the report submitted to you on 22.04.2016 by the UPM as we have achieved almost 100% of the specified work. It is no doubt under such circumstances I have very limited comments to be made in terms of your contribution to trade liberalisation and it is to be applauded for the success of compiling the aforesaid highly professional minutes / notes ...”

The naked reality of you and your ministry officials are as follows:

1.  First and foremost let me remind you that two years ago when we started the consultative process your staff couldn’t draft minutes of a meeting; where Archt. L.T. Kiringoda, the former President OPA, did a few days of minutes with a proper structure to help develop the process. Then you did take over the operation by stating that your staff has learnt the “art of minutes” writing where after the said takeover we have not received many minutes. The present minutes also exactly indicates the art that your staff has gained or regained or mastered.

2. The said notes/minutes never carries any official letterhead. Thereby it is intentional manipulation of the proceedings where at any given time you or any other officials can declare that such are not authorized documents or drafts or even to state that no such consultation has ever taken place.

3. The said notes/minutes never carries a signature, even from a peon/administrative assistant. Thereby it is again intentional manipulation by you and your ministry staff to mislead and misinform the professionals with documents that do not hold any validity or responsibility.

4.  The minutes/notes to be released after 10 weeks or 70 days is nothing but clearly express the “lethargic attitude” towards the commitments OR intentional conductions in order mislead, misinform and misguide the public until your ministry succeed by signing trade liberalization agreements without the necessary legal frameworks are in place and thereby allowing the country to be ruined at the discretion of some interested parties; where some of your officials will get benefited.

5.  The credibility of your notes or minutes is absolutely nothing except it indicates your intended manipulative operation to report to the Cabinet of Ministers that the stakeholders have contributed and have agreed/consented to the agreements; which is a perfect lie.

5. Let me quote from your last two tables from the minutes/notes:

Timeline to be communicated in respect of the formulation of regulatory framework;

Task    Timeline

New Immigration & Emigration Regulations     

a. Draft Immigration & Emigration regulations to be submitted to Immigration Controller     5 January 2018

(Completed)

Amendments to NHRC Act     

a. Draft NHRC Act amendments submitted to Ministry of NP&EA/NHRC for comments 4 January 2018

(Completed)

The aforesaid documents that were discussed on 27.10.2017 with serious concerns from the participants apart from the submission in writing. But it is on record that the said documents were not presented to the professionals on 27.10.2017 and you maintained on that date that still all of them are in drafting stages. BUT interestingly the minutes/notes of 27.10.2017 carries to the effect that “completed”. Thereby either you being the secretary had lied to the stakeholders on the “completed” documents as “uncompleted” on 27.102.2017 OR this is not the minutes of the meeting held on 27.10.2017; but events that has taken place during the last few months. Thereby this document is technically defective as minutes/notes of meeting held on 27.10.2017.   

Singapore city skyline

5.2 When you have failed to date to submit the consolidated act and the regulations of the immigration and emigration how such have been completed without the proposals from the stakeholders is also a question. Please be noted that government does not need approvals from the stakeholders to amend its laws and regulations though such need is expressed by the stakeholders. But such ex-parte conduction will definitely lead to legal proceedings against such hidden legal documents and such will only result in a waste of time.  

6.  When we read the aforesaid point 1, 2, 3 and 4 along with 5 it is clear that you seem to be intentionality lying to the professionals and thereby to the public of this country.

7. The appreciated and congratulated dream above may be the present standards of the Government of Sri Lanka and their ministries and public servants which is represented by you as a Secretary to the Ministry. But please note that this kind timing by the government on international trade is “good for nothing” and it will lead only to closing the stables after the horses are gone. The hidden plans and intensions of ruining this country for unknown hidden intentions are exposed by this kind of operations. All these conductions are sufficient enough to state that you and your officials are working on premeditated plans, programs and modes to execute unlawful and irregular agreements that are contrary to the national interests by misleading the public and professionals in the country, by way of conducting unarticulated and/or haphazard and/or consultation process without any schedule and achievable targets.         

8. Just after the meeting held on 27.10.2017, I have sent you a registered letter dated 30.10.2017 with detailed explanations which you have not replied or acknowledged to date. You being a government officer that itself declares your ability to work with stakeholders in any consultative process. Thereby you have failed to state your position against my position considered on technical grounds and in the absence of your reply all my positions considered are true and valid. Under such circumstances your hidden plans have been proved with substantial information.  

9.  It is not needed to repeat the facts stated in my previous letter dated 30.10.2017 and thereby I request you to refer to the letter in detail. But the prediction on 30.10.2017 has been proved by you on 06.01.2018:  (Emphasis added); Quote:  “vi)  It is to be assumed that the Ministry is in the process of getting prepared for a public statement as specified below or to a similar effect that;

“Total outcome of the FTA negotiation for the last few months and especially for the last one year had conclusive and fruitful discussions with private sector and all stakeholders inclusive of UPM and OPA and thereby signing of FTA with Singapore has been consented by the all stakeholders.”

Please note that this is the well-practiced theory that was adopted from 2003 onwards by the late Dr. Saman Kelegama in order to force continuous governments to sign the CEPA which was stopped at the last moment by “National Minded Persons”. Please note that unplanned discussions, non-adherence to time schedules, non-working government officials, apart from high theoretical and non-technical submissions alone will not justify the discussions have been successful and concluded.

Thereby please note the undue delay is well within your ministry and officials and not the others. Further, please note the required legal frameworks cannot be developed by the professional groups alone or other stakeholders and such has to be done only by the government officials including you. Thereby without such legal entities and necessary laws there is no conclusion of the decisions or no consent for Singapore or another FTA.” Unquote

Thereby it is no doubt that you are in the premeditated preplanned business of misleading the public as already the news is there that the Singapore agreement is going to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers. In order to substantiate the position in terms of professional groups you have included the following information.

nBy now, six rounds of negotiations have been completed in India-SL ETCA, six rounds of China–SL FTA and seven rounds of Singapore-SL FTA. Singapore-SL FTA is expected to be completed by late December 2017 or early January 2018. The next round of China-SL FTA will probably be held in December 2017 and the Ministry has scheduled the next rounds with India and Singapore in November 2017.

Thereby it is clearly evident the reason of not releasing the minutes of the meeting within reasonable timeframe and to manipulate the procedures is to mislead and misinform the public. Further without implementing a single legitimate request that have been made by the report dated 22.04.2016 and further without submitting a single draft of a law or regulation how can finalise the agreement with a schedule of commitments is the answered question. It is evident from such scenarios that that you and your ministry is in real manipulation of the stakeholders.    

10.  It is believed that you being the Secretary of the Ministry, should be aware that International Trade liberalization agreements do not operate in isolation. We as Sri Lanka sign along with many countries who are members of the WTO and by signing with one country the same principles applies to many other countries via other agreements of the specific two countries. Thereby without adequate legal and regulative framework in place signing trade liberalization agreement with schedules of commitments cannot be justified under any circumstances as such will ruin the country.  

11.  The Chief negotiator Mr. K.J. Weerasinghe does not need to be educated in this regard as he has been a former WTO representative and former DG of DOC he should be aware of all the facts. But his conduct that is against the accepted basic principles creates the doubt of his integrity and interests. You being the secretary and being ineffective on subject matter and failure to deliver the accepted systems also creates the serious doubt of your integrity and independence as public officers who are being looked after by the Sri Lankan taxpayers.     

12.  Thereby you being the secretary have no right whatsoever to submit for the Cabinet of Ministers on the assumption that the stakeholders have approved/consented any agreements that includes Singapore and/or China and/or India or any other country; as you have failed to implement a single legal system required for any trade liberalization for the last two years. Please note that your incapability is not an excuse for the signing of the agreements as we being professionals offered free services/honorary services; which you have failed to utilise to date; where even such non-acceptance of services also a question that leads to hidden plans of signing trade liberalization agreements without the legal systems.

13. Apart from the aforesaid facts it is to be noted that you have tremendously failed to date to honour a single commitment that you have made before the professional groups as specified below;

13.1 To discuss the draft of the proposed Singapore agreement with the professionals.  

13.2 To submit an in-depth analysis of the Singaporean legal framework in terms of professionals.

13.3 To submit a single amendment or even a draft of an amendment to the existing Sri Lankan legal systems; that cannot be compared with any other country in terms of trade liberalization especially Singapore, India and China, where they have much controlled acts and regulations.  

13.4 To submit a single regulation amendments or even a draft of an amendments in terms of the areas that have been identified as critical areas.

13.5 To propose a schedule of work plan in order to implement the required legal systems in Sri Lanka to create fair trade liberalization.   

13.6 To state the position in terms of original GATS commitment that has been officially accepted as technically defective,

13.7 To submit the consolidated acts in terms of emigration and immigration.

13.8 To submit the consolidated regulations in terms of emigration and immigration.  

14. Last but not least, the aforesaid all the items and especially the paragraph 13 read with other contents; precisely and accurately demonstrate the intentions of you and your staff of misleading and misinforming the public at large and possibly submitting false position to the Cabinet of Ministers in order to sign trade liberalization agreements without the required legal framework in place; which is to be assumed that some of your staff may be benefited.  

Based on the aforesaid facts it is the hereby noticed to you that professional groups have not authorise/consented/approved any free trade agreement to be signed without having at least the minimum legal requirements that is part of the WTO commitments.

Please be further noted that these submissions/documents will be substantial evidences in any possible ‘Presidential Commission of Inquiry’ or any such procedure; in one day to inquiry/investigate the manipulations carried out in terms of international trade liberalization by Sri Lankan Government officials, by a possible future government; where and when then people of this country and the world; which may include children, grandchildren or even great grandchildren of the present society, will realize who had fought for the “justice and equality in trade liberalization” and who have made the country from “poor to poorest” or “economic colony” of another country for “unknown reasons” which are “reasons of publicly known and debated”.

It is you opportunity to make the unborn generations of this country to be proud of the present generation of public officers.    

Those present at the 27 October 2017 meeting included the following: Ananda Dharmapriya (DOC), Indika Gamange (UNITE/UPM), Nalaka Jayaweera (UPM), Gamini Gunawardana (UPM), Arjuna Manamperi (UPM / IESL), Zahara Ansary (CIMA), Nirmalan Wigneswaran (AG’s Department), Harin De Silva (Exporters Association of Sri Lanka), Heshan Karunarathna (Computer Society of Sri Lanka), Rushitha Rodrigo (AG’s Department), Dilummini De Mel (Sri Lanka Institute of Architects), Russell Dandeniya (Sri Lanka Institute of Architects), W.D. Samuya Madubashini (The Institute of Charted Accountants of Sri Lanka), Miles Brahier (Ceylon Book Seller Importers and Exporters Association), Lakshman Athukorala (The Institute of Charted Accountants of Sri Lanka),.Ramal Jasingha (National Chamber of Exporters (NCE)), Bandula Dissanayake (National Chamber of Commerce), Delamo Dias (Ceylon Chamber of Commerce), Veranjan Krurukulasuriya (Sri Lanka Institute of Architects), M.P.T. Cooray (JAAF), Vish Govindasamy (Ceylon Chamber of Commerce), K.S. Mangala Silva (IESL), Upali Fernando (MCSC), Amandee Perera (AG’s Department), Tashya Gajanayake ( AG’s Department), Lahiru Kurnarasiri (UPM), Lasantha Wickramasingha (UPM), K.C. Vignarajah (CNCI), M.A.N.P. Gunasekara (FCCISL), Anupama Wimalarathna (DSI Group), Prof. Niranjanie Rathnayake (Institute of Engineers Sri Lanka), Sachithra Weerasinghe (NCE), Keshini Withanage (NCE), R.C. Dassanayake (PNF), K.R. Perera (UPM), Malinda Mendis (United ICT Professional’s Association), Asantha de Silva (United ICT Professional’s Association), K.A. Vimalenthiraraja (DG, Deparment of Trade and Investment Policy), Dr. Ariththa Wikramanayake (Member of National Negotiation Team – FTA), Dr. Ravi Rathnayake (Member of National Negotiation Team – FTA), K.J. Weerasinghe (Chief Negotiator – FTA), Dr. Nihal Samarappuli (Member of National Negotiation Team – FTA) and officials from the MoDSIT.

 

 


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