Cabinet approves controversial MCC
Posted on October 30th, 2019

Mahinda Gunasekera

His Excellency the President, Hon. Prime Minister, Hon. Cabinet Ministers, Hon. MPs, and Secretaries of Ministries,

I am left to assume the accuracy of the news report carried in The Island of October 30, 2019 that the Cabinet of Ministers has approved the controversial agreement with the US Millennium Challenge Corporation and accept the grant of $480 million on offer from the US authorities. What I and other Sri Lankans would like to know are the obligations to be met by the Sri Lankan authorities as a result of accepting the funds being granted by the MCC which is missing in the news report. We would like to specifically know the answers to the following queries which had been touched on by various writers who had access to the terms of the agreement while it was under negotiation:

1.  The extent of the package of land to be released to the US authorities for their use for a period of 200 years during which time US law would apply within that region?
2.  The location of the landmarked out on a map of Sri Lanka?  Does it correspond to the land corridor between Trincomalee and the city of Colombo?
3.  Are armed US military personnel granted access to this area making it a virtual US military base thereby relinquishing Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over that portion of the island’s territory?
4.  Is there a provision to terminate the arrangement in terms of the agreement?
5.  What was the need to enter into such an arrangement without consulting the sovereign people or even having a debate in the national parliament?

Please reply urgently or make a public statement without delay as it needs to be first discussed by the public before elected representatives proceed to give up parcels of Sri Lanka’s sovereign territory for a handful of dollars.

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera
Encl.  News report.

Cabinet approves controversial MCC President Sirisena backs down

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October 29, 2019, 10:20 pm

The Cabinet yesterday approved the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant of USD 480 million.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera submitted the proposal. Earlier, President Maithripala Sirisena said that he would not approve the deal when the main opposition raised concerns over the agreement.

The Finance Ministry in a media release said: “On a proposal made by the Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera, the Cabinet of Ministers today approved the implementation of US$ 480 Million MCC grant. This consists of grant funds for traffic management in Colombo, Road Construction countrywide, and land administration improvements covering the whole country.

“These compact programmes to be funded by this project have been developed by the Sri Lankan officials of the line ministries and departments based on the needs of the country. The Sri Lankan Government has the option of amending the identified projects even after the signing of the Agreement.      

Sri Lanka is the 37th recipient of such grant funds from the people of United States of America. The Minister of Finance will sign the agreement in the near future as it was approved by the Cabinet yesterday. The implementation will begin in early 2020.

 “This is a great victory for the government and augurs well for the future. Sri Lanka began negotiation with MCC in 2001 at the direction of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the then Prime Minister. MCC negotiations were led by the Ministry of Finance and the MCC compact developed and finalized by the Compact Development Team of the Prime Minister’s office.”

 The US wanted to enter into three agreements with Sri Lanka. The three agreements Acquisition and Cross Service Agreement (ACSA), the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the MCC grant came under heavy criticism. The ACSA was inked in Aug 2017 and with the government’s approval for MCC grant yesterday only the SOFA was pending for further processing, political sources said.

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