Yahapalana Govt Excelled in Mismanagement: Pandering to Sri Lanka’s Detriment
Posted on July 26th, 2020

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

The Yahapalana Government flunked in their management of international affairs. Mangala Samaraweera simply made Sri Lanka a co-signatory instead of challenging the UNHRC Resolution 30/1. By doing this, the Yahapalana Government overcame the confrontation that was brewing between the U.S. and Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lanka becoming a co-signatory did not make the Resolution any less hostile!

Negotiations gone awry

Likewise, they blotched the free trade agreement signed with Singapore. Initially they kicked the Chinese out of the Port City Project; afterwards they begged them to return and were forced to pay a penalty.  How about leasing the Hambantota Port for 99 years to the less favourable bid? These were all terrible negotiations. Signing a military agreement with the US that does not serve Sri Lanka was bad enough. The fact the agreement did not consist of an exit clause or that only five out of 88 pages were shown to the then President Maithripala Sirisena adds to the contention. 

Yet, Sajith Premadasa, the Yahapalana Government’s Presidential Candidate at a recent Election rally speculated the reason their people lost confidence in them might be inconsistencies in decision making. He said that Cabinet decisions taken on Monday were changed by Wednesday.

MCC Compact – Inauspicious announcement

The reason for him not to attribute their failure to the Yahapalana Government’s foreign policies maybe due to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact awarded to Sri Lanka. This is the largest grant ever offered to

Sri Lanka.

It was the Yahapalana Government’s initiative that made the MCC, which lost interest in Sri Lanka during the Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration, agree to reconsider Sri Lanka for a grant and thereafter offer this Compact. Therefore, it’s natural for that Government to pat their back on attracting MCC to offer USD 480 million for a two-pronged project to better manage Sri Lanka’s traffic and State land. 

The announcement of MCC’s decision to award the Compact could not have been worse timed. It was made four days after the Easter Sunday massacres, the simultaneous attack on churches and hotels took Sri Lankans by complete surprise. 

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith urged communities to remain calm and shared his deep suspicions that this attack could be the work of geopolitical forces. 

Ignored notifications

It soon came to light the Yahapalana Government had received nearly hundred repeated intelligence notifications of impending attacks with almost pinpoint accuracy. This information collaborated with certain incidents in Sri Lanka. The destruction of the Gautama Buddha statues in Mawanella and the discovery of explosives indicated strongly that extremists were once again active in the Island. However, top ranking officials did not give the received information its due importance. 

The ongoing Presidential Commission to investigate the Easter Sunday massacres found out Military Intelligence had passed the intelligence to the relevant Police authorities. Yet, at the very highest level, the police had refused to act on it. DIG Ajith Rohana explained that it is easier to criticise the Police for inaction on hindsight.  However, had the police acted and disrupted an important religious ceremony as the Easter Sunday and it turned out to be a false alarm, it would have been misconstrued as an act against reconciliation. The collective opinion of the security establishment was that the then Government’s focus was on reconciliation than national security. 

Who was responsible?

While the country reeled with shock, the Yahapalana Government acted in a state of excitable frivolity. They were neither shocked nor repentant and no one was willing to accept responsibility. Then both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were estranged. Wickremesinghe claims he was not aware about the intelligence notifications as he was not invited to the Security Council meetings. He however fails to explain his reasons for not being able to address this serious lapse in Parliament. Sirisena on the other hand retorts how was he responsible for something he did not know? Four days after the attack, then Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera blithely announced the likely collapse of the tourism industry. 

However, after pronouncing the tourism industry’s doom after the Easter Sunday massacres, neither Ranil Wickremesinghe nor Sajith Premadasa offered solutions or what measures their Government would take to cushion the fall. Instead Samaraweera announced that he had some good news on the economic front. That’s how Sri Lankans got to know about the Compact. 

Now as the incumbent Opposition, it’s entertaining to watch both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa tripping over each other with solutions to manage the economic crisis had they been in power. 

MCC a hangman’s noose

As information about the MCC and the Compact began to trickle through patriots got alarmed and pointed out that though these were a grant, the strings attached were akin to a hangman’s noose. MCC insists that the recipient country must always adhere to ‘Good Governance’ if to commence and continue with the Compact. Professor Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, who headed the review committee on the Compact, when presenting their findings observed the MCC had paused their grants halfway in other countries. 

Sri Lankans’ own experience after nearly five years of Yahapalana ‘good governance’ is that ‘good governance’ is an extremely subjective term. Democracy, accountability, reconciliation and corrupt free governance were the promised components. Instead, the Yahapalana Government compulsively obsessed over the opinion of the West, whose expectations of Sri Lanka seemed to be strongly influenced by an extremist group, the Tamil Diaspora who holds the entire Tamil expatriate community in an iron grip. 

Thus, the Yahapalana Government ignored the UPFA – the largest opposition political alliance with representation in eight provinces and 56 seats in Parliament. The UPFA continued to suffer step-motherly treatment at the Parliament. They were even denied adequate time to address the Parliament. 

Instead the TNA, the one time political proxy of the LTTE and an alliance composed of exclusive Tamil politicians representing two provinces with only 16 seats in Parliament, was appointed as the Opposition. It is most unfortunate that they did not use their powerful status to bring forth any development or economic relief to at least their constituents. 

Mangala co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 without Cabinet approval

Mangala Samaraweera as the Minister for Foreign Relations in 2015 co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 without either Cabinet approval, or a debate in Parliament or a mandate from the people. The conditions set forth in this Resolution decidedly treated the Sri Lankan Military as war criminals and the LTTE terrorists as victims. The free trade agreement with Singapore was another international contract signed with equal secrecy and equally detrimental to the country’s economic security. 

In the name of good governance, some of the acts and bills the Yahapalana Government tried to implement included reparations for terrorists and their families, persecution and incarceration of security forces, dismantling intelligence networks and attempts to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act with one that conceded more rights to the suspected terrorists than given to even common criminals and laws against enforced disappearances that are only effective to security forces. Some Western countries even tied up economic relations such as GSP+ with these conditions. 

Where the 19th Amendment went wrong

The 19th Amendment was structured to make the President listen to the recommendations of his premier in making crucial appointments. However, the Amendment did not support a provision to use when these appointments needed to be reversed. This is how the IGP continued to remain as the IGP despite failing in his duty. Yet, the Yahapalana Government was hailed for strengthening democracy in the country. 

Obviously, none of these were agreeable to the people. Yet, the proponents of good governance continued to applaud the Yahapalana Government and claimed democracy was established. To add insult to injury, the Yahapalana Government failed miserably on the economic front as well. The failures seemed almost deliberate. Nearly, half a million people lost their livelihoods. 

Removing one’s foot without detonating it 

Today, both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa are jeering the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Administration for not tearing up the Compact immediately. Instead, the reviewing of the Compact was passed from expert committee to Cabinet. 

However, one must understand the Compact is only a carrot. Discrediting the political leadership to lead to regime change and passing the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 to persecute the Military whilst creating divisions between Sinhalese and Tamils were all foundations of the Compact. To tear the Compact without understanding the objective expected from it would be foolish – because after the carrot comes the stick. 

As far as the U.S. or any other international body is concerned, it is Sri Lanka that requested a grant from the MCC. It certainly is not their problem that it was ‘that’ Government and not ‘this’ Government. By inviting the MCC we had metaphorically stepped on a landmine. The trick is now to remove the foot without detonating it. 


One Response to “Yahapalana Govt Excelled in Mismanagement: Pandering to Sri Lanka’s Detriment”

  1. Charles Says:

    Thank you dear Shivanthi You have hit the nail on the head

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