‘Working with foreign economies does not mean we are selling off the country’ – President
Posted on June 26th, 2023

Courtesy Adaderana

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has assured that Sri Lanka has qualified for the assistance from the World Bank since all the required benchmarks for financial assistance from the WB have been fulfilled so far and that the much-needed” funds will help strengthen the country’s economy.

Speaking in an interview with FRANCE 24 on the sidelines of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris, President Wickremesinghe mentioned that the World Bank’s assistance is much needed at the moment and will certainly help to strengthen the economy.

Anticipating money from the World Bank, so far we have fulfilled all the benchmarks. Therefore we are qualifying for assistance from the World Bank.”

It is a much-needed money at the moment and will certainly help to strengthen the economy”, he said.

However, the Head of the State did not exactly confirm whether the amount will be USD 700 million, as earlier reported by foreign media.

I hope there will be more. I’m not going to complain [about the amount]”, he said.

Furthermore, the president mentioned that the debt restructuring programme will be presented to the Cabinet on Wednesday and that it will be presented to the parliament and before the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) on Friday.

He also stated that the programme will be debated in parliament on Sunday and will be approved by parliament.

Discussions are going on with different groups. We have an agreement with Lazards [a Financial services company] to represent us at the international level.”

The debt restructuring programme will be presented to the Cabinet on Wednesday.  We hope to finalise it. It goes to the parliament on Friday, before the Public Finance Committee, and on Sunday it will be debated in parliament and will be approved by parliament”, the President claimed.

Thereafter we can start the rest of our negotiations with our creditors.”

We have been discussing with all the creditors and with China.”

In addition, Wickremesinghe expressed that China has not joined the common platform but they’ve been there at every meeting, and all details have been shared with China, while Beijing in turn has shared information with them.

Except for formally being on the platform, China has been a party and aware of all the information that is being shared”, he mentioned.

Meanwhile, in response to a question whether Sri Lanka plans to postpone the debt, reduce it or a combination of both, Wickremesinghe mentioned that the government was looking at some form of a reduction of the debts.

Discussions are underway. Hopefully, on Sunday or Monday, the document will be available to us.”

During the discussion, questions were also raised regarding the speculations on whether the presence of China in Sri Lanka will be a military presence. 

In reply, the President pointed out that there are a lot of speculations about the Hambantota Harbour, adding that although it has been given out to China Merchants Group, the security is controlled by the Sri Lankan government.

He further emphasized that the Southern Naval Command will be shifted to Hambantota.

We have got one brigade stationed in Hambantota and nearby areas, and there certainly has been no issue of military use by the Chinese.”

China has been there for 1,500 years. So far, there has been no military base”, he asserted.

The same company also runs a terminal in the Colombo Harbour and that’s where warships come from all countries”, the president expressed, adding that We have no military agreements with China”.

Wickremesinghe, who highlighted that Sri Lanka is a neutral country, ensured that the government will not allow Sri Lanka to be used as a base for any threats against India.

The President, who responded to a question on whether the country is being sold off, emphasized that working with foreign economies does not mean that the country is being sold off, but it means that the country’s economy is being developed.

We are working with foreign economies, not only Western but also Eastern like Japan, China, and Korea. Working with them does not mean that we are selling off the country. It means that we are developing the economy”, he added.

It’s just sort of a debate that goes on in Sri Lankan politics. They have not been able to reply,” he said, referring to the accusations by opposition groups. 

Responding to another question raised during the discussion whether Sri Lanka will satisfy the demands of the Tamils for an international probe into the war crimes, the Head of the State expressed that the South African style Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been agreed by all and that’s one of the conditions that the Geneva Human Rights Commission has also taken up.

It [the commission] was drafted some time ago, but after I became the president, I have been talking with South Africa about establishing the commission. I will get it passed in parliament by August.”

The President assured that the legislation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is likely to be enacted by August.

In my view, the legislation will be enacted by August”, he said.

Commenting further on the Tamils, President Wickremesinghe expressed that the economy and social standards of the Tamils, especially the Tamil people living in the Hill Country are needed to be uplifted.

They are of course taking part in the politics and they have members serving in the central cabinet”, the President mentioned.

President Wickremesinghe was also questioned whether there will be any investigations into former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regarding his role during the war, where he replied that he would like any allegations to come before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, adding that anyone else can go before the commission and that they can call anyone, even the former president before the commission.

He further highlighted that no one can say the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is covered-up, as there will be foreign observers.

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