Bellanwila Anunayake Thero slams ETCA, Indian expansionism People’s Commission to formulate national policy on international trade and treaties
Posted on February 23rd, 2017

*PM flayed for his determination to sign ETCA
* Padeniya bitterly criticises India-Sri Lanka FTA
*Sale of state assets condemned
*Prof. Lakshman warns against employing foreign workers

The inauguration of the People’s Commission to formulate a policy framework for international trade and treaties appointed by the Professionals’ National Front was held last Wednesday (22 Feb.) at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. The need for such a policy framework arose as a result of the numerous discussions the Professionals’ National Front had with the government about ETCA and the need to be guided by a set of criteria in entering into trade treaties. The auditorium was packed to capacity with standing room only. The Professionals’ National Front is a consortium of a dozen professionals’ associations including among others, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), the Electrical Engineers’ Association, the Customs Officers’ Union and the National University Teachers’ Association. Explaining the objectives that led to the setting up of the People’s Commission to formulate a national policy on international trade and treaties, Dr Anurudda Padeniya of the GMOA said that the word ‘development’ used in days gone by had now been replaced by the phrase ‘sustainable development’ and that our people’s representatives keep uttering this phrase all the time.

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The President, Dr. Padeniya pointed out, utters this phrase even if he happens to be addressing a daham school ceremony. However, if the politicians had any understanding of this phrase, they will know that what it means is that economic development has to take into account factors other than just the economic considerations in isolation and that matters like the environmental impact of the development, its effect on health etc also have to be taken into account. Giving an example he said that there was talk of building a bridge between Sri Lanka and India but that he had never seen even a newspaper article outlining the benefits that this bridge is supposed to bring to Sri Lanka but that medical experts have told him that this bridge will bring communicable diseases like Malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis into Sri Lanka.

Dr Padeniya drew reference to the existing India- Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement and said that this agreement has not benefitted Sri Lanka but that on the contrary Sri Lanka had suffered losses as a result of it. Drawing attention to a booklet published by the GMOA on the FTA with India, he pointed out that one of the top exports from Sri Lanka to India after 15 years of the FTA was animal feed and wanted to know whether the objective of having an FTA with India was to promote poonac exports. (The booklet pointed out that though arecanut was the main export from Sri Lanka to India even this had not resulted in a development of arecanut cultivation in Sri Lanka because arecanut is imported from Indonesia to be re-exported.)

He stated that India was seeking to subjugate the countries in the South Asian region and that Sikkim is now a state of India and Nepal was completely at India’s mercy and that certain people were now suggesting that Nepal too should become a state of India. Padeniya went on to state that some economic advisors retain their positions despite changes of government and that these individuals claim to have been educated in Oxford and Harvard and say they know what is best for this country. He stated that something akin to match fixing was going on with regard negotiating the trade deal between India and Sri Lanka and that even the people who were supposed to represent us were actually representing the other side. Dr Padeniya stated that the Prime Minister has said that ETCA would be signed in June despite all opposition to it, and that under such circumstances professionals cannot stand by idly and do nothing.

Dr Bellanwila Wimalaratnana Anunayke Thero of Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha of the Siyam Nikaya addressing the gathering said that Sri Lanka has set a world record by having no national policy for anything. He said that some time ago, politicians deceived the people saying that they were going to build a ‘dharmista’ society but that it turned out to be an absolute canard. In recent times said the Anunayake Thero, the people have been promised yahapalanaya but nobody can understand what this yahapalanaya is. The Anunayke thera said that people were being bamboozled with fairytales. He stated that treaties were being entered into without a proper study of their implications. He said that he was not opposed to trade treaties with other countries if they were of benefit to this country. For example, the Rubber-Rice Pact with China was a good treaty which benefitted Sri Lanka for many years.

The Anunayake thero stated that the authorities claimed that when the ETCA agreement is signed, both goods and services will be able to move freely between India and Sri Lanka but that even a child could say who would stand to benefit from such an arrangement. He said Indian professionals will be able to come to Sri Lanka but will Sri Lankan professionals be able to go to India and find work? He stated that there were PhDs driving trishaws in India. He said that in days gone by, a certain youth movement had a theory about Indian expansionism and that ETCA was another example of Indian expansionism and that people should talk about these things. He stated that the leaders of the nation had no right to say that they would go ahead with a trade treaty no matter who opposed it.

He said that the professionals had embarked on an important endeavour and he likened the National Commission to formulate a national policy on trade and international treaties to the Buddhist Affairs Commission in the 1950’s headed by Professor Gunapala Malalasekera. The Anunayake thero observed that the recommendations made by that commission had a major impact on the 1956 general election with S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike undertaking to implement those recommendations.

Speaking on this occasion, entrepreneur Samantha Kumarasinghe of Nature’s Secrets stated that an agreement was entered into in the 1980s with a Singaporean Company to mill wheat imported into Sri Lanka for 30 years on a ‘build operate and transfer’ basis but that in 2001, the then President sold the business that was to come into the hands of the government in 2007, for 60 million USD. The turnover of that enterprise since then had been well in excess of eight billion USD and that abuses like this happened due to the lack of a national policy on trade and investment. The point that Kumarasinghe made was that in the absence of a policy framework, leaders and governments could make arbitrary decisions with regard to national assets. He said that people are being hauled to courts for misusing vehicles, but there is not even a discussion about the abuses that took place in selling assets to foreigners.

Kumarasinghe said that likewise fuel distribution rights were given to an Indian company for 75 million USD simply to import fuel and to distribute it without even refining it in Sri Lanka. He stated that even the Central Bank Governor was saying that our country is in a debt crisis and that assets have to be sold to get out of this trap. He said that the debt to GDP ratio in Japan was over 250% but that nobody was talking in terms of selling off Japanese state assets to foreigners. He appealed to the government not to sell the Hambantota harbour. Prof W. D. Lakshman the Co-Chairman of the people’s Commission to formulate a national policy on trade and international treaties stated that while the powers that be in Sri Lanka have placed their faith in the neo-liberal economic model of free trade, sweeping changes were taking place in the world with Brexit, and the Trump administration in the USA reviewing NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Speaking further, Prof. Lakshman stated that foreign remittances from Sri Lankans employed abroad was what enabled us to meet our foreign exchange needs but if Indian employees coming into Sri Lanka under ETCA and the opening up of the services sector, were allowed to remit money from Sri Lanka that would deplete Sri Lanka’s biggest source of foreign exchange. The members of the People’s Commission to formulate a national policy on international trade and treaties are Prof. Lakshman and Palitha Fernando PC (co-chairmen) P. D. Fernando, R. P. L. Weerasinghe, Dr Bandula Weerasekera, Dr Anula Wijesundera and Lakshman Perera.

2 Responses to “Bellanwila Anunayake Thero slams ETCA, Indian expansionism People’s Commission to formulate national policy on international trade and treaties”

  1. NAK Says:

    This was the bane in Sri Lanka. The academics and the professionals taking the back seat allowing the crocked politicians to do as they pleased.
    Its a good thing at least now that these patriots have come forward for the sake of the country.
    They need to be saluted for their courage’s effort.

  2. NAK Says:

    courageous !

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