COVID wild fire, 20th Amendment, Mark Pompeo’s threat, resurgent MCC & SOFA; Signs that planetary alignment is not in the country’s favour?
Posted on October 24th, 2020

By Raj Gonsalkorale

With positive cases exceeding 7000, and a national daily high of 865 and cases being reported in many parts of the country, what is striking is the sound of silence from health officials. While it is understandable to have one spokesperson, many other countries have generally had a non-health person as the chief spokesperson, at times a President or a Prime Minister, but in equal standing with the most senior health official of the country. The logic is simple. This is a health matter.

The people of the country have to know how a calm and contained situation in the country became a Tsunami. It is time that an independent enquiry, preferably by a senior retired judge/s is conducted without delay to assuage mounting concerns amongst the public, and to restore the confidence people have in the government ability to curb the pandemic spreading like wild fire in the country.

If in this instance, Brandix was responsible for the beginning of this second wave, as most seem to believe, it is in their interest to provide all relevant facts to the proposed enquiry so that they can be exonerated if the news spreading in social media is fake news. An assurance from Brandix and the government is too little too late now, not just to find out how this happened, but also to identify measures that need to be taken to prevent a recurrence. With intense pressure on export oriented industries that employ large numbers of workers to keep their exports moving, the possibility of a recurrence is more than likely. 

No doubt, political and administrative decisions need to be taken, firstly to manage the outbreak and to prevent similar outbreaks in the future. However, the basis for these decisions have to be health policy related. The public needs a greater assurance that this is happening. It is not evident that this is happening and that the public feels assured.

The 20th Amendment

The 20th Amendment will become law as soon as the Speaker signs it. The Presidency assumes supremacy over the Prime Minister and the Parliament. One wonders how this amendment and its reinstated powers in the hands of the previous President or a future President like him would have been viewed? A fundamental tenant of democracy, checks and balances, have been diluted or eroded by the 20th Amendment. The issue is not about granting powers to a President. It is about mechanisms in place to prevent the misuse of such powers and also to make sure powers are used effectively and efficiently to produce good outcomes for the people. The 19th Amendment had flaws. Even some who were engaged in framing it conceded that. However, the answer should not have been the thinking that one had to go back to the 18th Amendment in order to rectify whatever flaws in the 19th Amendment. Both amendments, the 19th as well as the 20th appears to be personality driven and not necessarily what is the country’s best interest. It is no secret that the thrust of the 19th Amendment was to contain the powers of one Presidency and now, the 20th Amendment has been enacted to restore most powers taken away from that Presidency. 

The Constitutional Council, the independent committees, COPE and COPA committees, should have been strengthened and given more powers. The contention that the independent commissions were not independent is not a reason to have diluted their independence.

Mark Pompeo’s visit, MCC and SOFA Agreements

It is known that the US Secretary of State is not visiting Sri Lanka to have tea with the President and the Prime Minister. He is coming to reinforce the message that the US State department official Dean Thompson announced in advance of Mr Pompeo’s visit that We encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices. We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long term prosperity”

What was the immediate consequence of this statement? Reuters (Marc Jones, Asian Currency News October 23rd) reported that Sri Lanka’s dollar dominated 2021 and 2022 bonds dropped 5 percent or more according to Tradeweb data and dropped below 60 cents on the dollar threshold. This report continued to state” all the tell tales crisis signs are there: a trembling currency, credit rating downgrades, bonds at half their face value, debt to GDP levels nearing 100%, and almost 70% of government revenues being spent on interest payments alone”

So, if Mr Pompeo is visiting Sri Lanka with this news in the background, and the more than a veiled attack on Sri Lanka’s close links with China, he has to be after an outcome that provides the US an unprecedented Quid Pro Quo outcome for some financial support. The only such deal on offer as far as known is the MCC agreement and the USD 480 Million over 5 years it includes. There is another agreement, not an economic one, but a Military one, unsigned yet, which is probably what is of more strategic benefit to the US and that is the SOFA Agreement. Under that the US Military could be in Sri Lanka at the invitation” of the government of Sri Lanka. What this entails and what would happen like in the Camel and the man in the tent story, is all too familiar when one looks at the track record of the US in many countries.

In terms of the financial crises outlined in the Reuters report mentioned above, MCC agreement money is peanuts. It is US 30 cents per capita per year of the US population of 327 million people over the five-year period. Sri Lankans working overseas remitted more than USD 7 Billion per year before COVID struck. If the country is to sell its soul, surely they should sell it for more than 30 pieces of Silver?

It has been reported that Mahinda Rajapaksa, as President, had made himself very clear as to his and the country’s stand when Western countries led by the US, UK, France etc, had applied pressure on him to allow LTTE cadres to be shipped out of Sri Lanka during the last stages of the war in 2009. Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother Gotabaya who is now the President, the Armed Forces of the country, ended the war by defeating the LTTE, while rehabilitating more than 300,000 LTTE cadres thereafter.

Perhaps it is time Sri Lanka stood with their heads high once again, and gave a similar message to Mr Pompeo. That message should be that Sri Lanka welcomes US assistance but it cannot be at the expense of China’s friendship and financial assistance. Sri Lanka could assure the US that the country’s land or sea or facilities, ports, airports etc, will not be given to any country for Military purposes, and that all were welcome to invest in Sri Lanka according to the sovereign laws of Sri Lanka.

If Sri Lanka grovels now, the impact will be felt by the future generations, and they will curse the current guardians for selling the country for 30 pieces of Silver. If President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had the 20th Amendment passed to reintroduce and reinforce the executive powers of the Presidency, this is the time he could demonstrate how he would use such reinstated powers for the benefit of these future generations.

The US is in the throes of a Presidential election. Polls are suggesting that there is a strong possibility of the incumbent President being defeated. Besides the unfairness of any pressure being applied on Sri Lanka at this stage to sign agreements, Sri Lanka should take into account the views of a Biden administration should that come to pass on the 4th of November. Mr Pompeo should respect such a stance.

2 Responses to “COVID wild fire, 20th Amendment, Mark Pompeo’s threat, resurgent MCC & SOFA; Signs that planetary alignment is not in the country’s favour?”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    There is no need to fear the Incredible Hulk!

    Our heroes should not get rattled by Pompeo’s size – physical, political nor the military might of the US he represents. There are other forces in the world closely watching this highly unequal pugilistic match. Sri Lanka has to steer clear of the Sirens as well as charter a disciplined course through a Scylla and Charybdis situation. For the Sinhalese who gave the President all the power he needs what they expect in return is just FREEDOM FROM ENSLAVEMENT!

    The 2600 year old legacy that is Mother Lanka is not for sale for 30 pieces of silver!. This much must be understood by the powers that be. The 20A gave power to the President – only to wield it to the benefit of our Motherland.

    President Gotabhaya must do a repeat of what his brother did in 2009 or better!

  2. Charles Says:

    ද්විත්ව පුරවැසියන් පිළිබඳව විවිධ රටවල් විවිධ පිළිවෙත් ගෙන තිබෙනවා. ද්විත්ව පුරවැසියන් ලංකාවේ අපට මහත් ආශීර්වාදයක් උනා. අවුරුදු 30ක් තිබුන ත්රුස්තවාදය සාර්ථකව නිමකර ඒ උවදුරින් රට ගලවාගැනීමට හැකි වුයේ ද්විත්ව පුරවැසියෙකු අපරටේ අරාක්ෂක ලේකම් වශ්යෙන් පත්කරගැනීම නිසාය. ඒ ආරක්ෂක ලේකම් ඔහුට අමෙරිකානු පුරවැසි භාවය තිබුනත් ඔහුට කිසිම ගැටලුවක් තිබුනේ නෑ ඇමෙරිකාවට එංගලන්තයට ප්‍රන්සයට කියන්න අපේරටේ ත්‍රස්තවාදී විරෝධී යුද්ධය අපිකරගෙන යනවා කරුණාකර අපට භාදාවක් නොවී පිටවයන්න යයි කියන්න.

    එංගලන්තයේ විදේශීය අමාත්‍ය මිලිබෑන්ඩ් හා ප්‍රන්සයේ විදෙශ අමාත්‍ය බර්නාර්ඩ් ක්රුශ්නෙර් අපෙ ආරක්ෂාව ගැන බයවෙන්න එපා අපිට ත්‍රස්තවාදී නායකයින් හමුවන්න ඉඩ දෙන්න කීවාම අපේ ආරක්ෂක අමාත්‍ය (ද්චිත්ව පුරවැසි)ගොටාබය රාජපක්ස මහතා ඔවුන්ට කීවේ මම බයබෙන්නේ ඔයදෙන්නගේ ආරක්ශාවගැන නොවේ නමුත් මගේ යුදහමුදාවන්ගැන යයි කීමට තරම් කොන්දක් වෙන කොය්නායකයාටද තිබිය හැක්කේ ?
    දේශපාලනවශයෙන් ජනාධිපතිව සිටි මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ මහතා දේශපාලන පක්ෂයක ආධාරයක් නොමැතිව අතරමන් වූ අවස්තාවක මුළු ත්රුස්තවාදී යුද්ධය තුබූ කාලයේ රටේ ආර්ථික සංවර්ධනයට විශේෂ සේවයක් කල බැසිල් රාජපක්ෂ මහතා මාස තුනක් වැනි සුලුකාලයකදී දේශපාලන පක්ෂයක් සාර්ථකව හදල එය අද රටේ විශාලතම ජනප්‍රියතම දේශපාලන පක්ෂය වශයෙන් ශ්‍රී ලංකා පොදු ජන පෙරමුණ නමින් ජනතාවට හඳුන්වාදුන්නේය. ඒ විශාලතම කාර්ය භාරය කිරිමට ඔහුගේ ද්විත්ව පුරවැසි භාවයෙන් භාදාවක් ඇති උනාද ?

    නිකන් හුම්බස්බිය හදාගන්නේ නැතිව අපේ රටේ රටට ආදරයකරන විවිධහෙතුන් නිසා දිවිප්ත පුරවැසිභාවය ලබාගෙන සිටින විවිධහෙතුන් නිසා ඉන් එක පුරවැසිභාවයක් අත්හැරීමට අපහසු ලාංකිකයෙකුට අප රටට පැමිණ රටට සේවයක් කිරීමට ඉඩනොදීම මනුස්ස්කමක්ද ? මේ රට සේවය කරද්දී අනිත් රට ඔහුට බලකිරීමක් කලොත් අපේ රටට අනතුරදායක් සේවයක් කිරීමට ඔහුට එය නොකර සිටිය හැකියි . එවනිඅවස්තාවකින් තනතුරින් අස්විය හැකියි . දෙවෙනි යුද්ධය කාලයේදී ඇමෙරිකාවේ සිටි ජෙර්මානුවන් හා ජපැන්නු සිරගතකලා. ලංකාවත් අමෙරිකාවත් අතර යුද්ධයක් තිබුනොත් ඇමෙරිකාවේ සිටින ලාංකිකයන් සිරගත කරන්න පුළුවන් නේද ?

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