Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
In response to statement released by CCC, PM’s Office issues strongly worded letter
Says CCC was kept informed of MCC developments since 2016
Letter says PM surprised by CCC call for more transparency
Believes query poses credibility issues, regrets politicisation of CCC
Says no SOFA proposal forwarded by Defence Ministry
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) was yesterday on the receiving end of some strong words in response to its request for more transparency regarding agreements with the US, with the Prime Minister’s Office saying it regretted the politicisation of the private sector body.
In a letter which was released to media, signed by Prime Minister’s Secretary E.M.S.B. Ekanayake, the CCC was reminded that they have been part of discussions regarding the $480 million grant extended by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) since April 2016.
“Politicisation of this reputable business conglomerate under your recent assumption of leadership is to be much regretted,” the letter addressed to CCC Chairman Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya said.
The letter also insisted there was no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Sri Lanka, nor was one likely to be signed as it has not been presented to Cabinet by the Defence Ministry.
“The Prime Minister in the receipt of your letter was perturbed by the CCC’s express ignorance on the contents of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC),” the letter said.
“You will note 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,” it added.
The letter went onto say the CCC was 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 the $490 million as a grant. After the signing of the compact it had to be presented to the Parliament for legislative approval- a legal procedure that is followed in the USA and some continental European countries.”
The letter said according to the Standing Order of Parliament, this compact will be reviewed by the Oversight Committee, and will be open to the interested parties. Further, the Prime Minister’s Office insisted there was no SOFA under negotiation.
“There is no SOFA between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of the USA. There is no such proposal forwarded by the Ministry, i.e. Defence Ministry, to the Cabinet,” the letter said.
“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 credibility in following the line taken by certain political parties with their own (unintelligible) for elections.”
On 3 July, the CCC released a statement calling on the Government to provide an enhanced level of transparency with respect to the SOFA and MCC 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.