ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka ought to amend the controversial Colombo Port City Economic Commission bill to reflect the constructive opinions expressed by government and opposition MPs, civil society and members of the Buddhist clergy, MP Gevindu Kumaratunga said.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker told reporters yesterday that regarding the makeup of the commission, the bill only provides for the appointment of a minimum of five and a maximum of seven members to the commission by the president. No other appointment criteria are mentioned, he said.
“Since intermediary work of the Port City won’t be finished till 2028, we need to think beyond the term of the incumbent president. If President Gotabaya Rajapaksa doesn’t seek reelection, another president will be in office by then,” the MP said.
Kumaratunga also chairs the Yuthukama organisation, an SLPP-affiliated advocacy group.
The MP said there are “certain lease agreements” signed with Chinese companies for about 100 years.
“A 100 years means at least 20 presidents, or at least 10 presidents of they all seek a second term,” he said.
Calling for an amended bill with more specific provisions regarding the economic commission’s membership, Kumaratunga said the Yuthukama organisation believes that all members appointed to the commission must be Sri Lankan.
A draft bill to set up a Port City Commission where the Board is to be appointed directly by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and has been exempted from a number of laws including contracts law has brought opposition from several quarters.
Nearly 20 petitions were filed against the bill earlier this month in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court. Opposition lawmakers, civil society and other actors claimed that the proposed commission poses a challenge to the island nation’s sovereignty.
The possibility of appointing non-citizens to the commission has drawn particularly vociferous criticism.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has also said some of the bill’s provisions may be violating sections of the constitution dealing with the unitary state, sovereignty of the people and fundamental rights.
Kumaratunga joins a chorus of voices that have raised questions about the bill.
“It is difficult for us to understand why a bill brought by our government has omitted such things,” he said, adding that the government must retain ownership of the land allocated to the USD 1.4 billion, China-backed Port City project.
“Since it is a matter of Sri Lanka’s future, the government should present amendments to the bill by taking into account the constructive comments [made by various actors including government MPs],” he said. (Colombo/Apr27/2021)