We, the Professionals National Front (PNF), highly appreciate you for establishing a National Economic Council. Your effort will make sure no impulsive decisions will be taken when it comes to making highly-sensitive decisions which can affect the Sri Lankan economy in negative ways.
We strongly believe presenting you the below highlighted concerns is timely, even though the Government has neglected our involvement and our concerns while carrying out initial discussions on proposed bilateral trade agreements. We highly anticipate your attention over our concerns.
1. No feasibility study has been done for the ETCA.
People who are behind the negations have taken out themselves from being accountable and yet they have put sole responsibility on Your Excellency.
K.J. Weerasinghe, lead negotiator of the ETCA negotiation team for Sri Lanka, has given a statement to a local newspaper on 10 August: “It is a decision by both the Governments at high political level that ETCA should be negotiated and completed it being an important component of economic development strategy.”
We believe the above statement is highly unprofessional and we also believe some parties are using this opportunity to tarnish your image all together. We would kindly request you to look in the matter and carry out a proper feasibility study before committing to such an agreement.
We would be more than content to provide assistance as a reputed professional body in Sri Lanka, when conducting the feasibility study, if required.
2. Conflict of interest
People with conflicts of interest have taken part as stakeholders of the negotiations.
Late Dr. Saman Kelegama acted as the lead negotiator until his sudden demise. He was also the chairman of a multinational company in Sri Lanka, which imports goods from India and China extensively. It is nothing more than a huge conflict of interest when a person like that chairs bilateral trade negotiations.
It can also create legal conflicts, if one of them becomes convicted due to conducting malpractices in areas covered in agreements. Such actions can take the legality of all the negotiations out the window. We should be highly precautious when nominating stakeholders due to the given reason. Therefore we appeal to nullify all the negotiations that have been carried out with these people.
3. Lack of transparency and no stakeholder participation
Transparency among stakeholders and the general public is one the key factors when carrying out negotiations on national policies on any other matter of importance related to the country. Even the World Trade Organization (WTO) has emphasised on the importance of keeping an open dialogue. Unfortunately this has not been addressed and no one is aware of the progress when it comes to current ETCA negotiations. Such an approach is entirely against the good governance principles of your Excellency.
4. Presenting a fake National Trade Policy to Cabinet
The Professional National Front appointed a commission of seven members chaired by the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo Prof. W.D. Lakshman and former Attorney General President’s Counsel Palitha Fernando to take the suggestion from all the stakeholders to draft a National Trade Policy for Sri Lanka. However recently, a fake National Trade Policy has been submitted to Cabinet and Cabinet approval has been obtained for that. The so-called National Trade Policy has been drafted by one person and he is a citizen of New Zealand. It turned out to be an entirely surprising factor for us to see that the extremely liberal and yet very primitive trade policy was able to obtain Cabinet approval while the Head of Cabinet is being held by a President from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
We sincerely hope you will consider the suggestions of Prof. Lakshman’s commission once the findings are made public in the coming weeks.
The signed parties of Professionals’ National Front:
Government Medical Officers Association
Inland Revenue Trade Unions Joint Committee
Government Dental Surgeons Association
Government Ayurveda Medical Officers Association
Customs Officers Union
National University Teachers Association
Association of Information Technology Professionals
Progressive Bank Employees Front
Public Service United Nurses’ Union
CPC Engineers Union
Railway Professionals Trade Unions Alliance