ECONOMYNEXT – There was some confusion in Sri Lanka’s parliament Thursday morning over purportedly misquoted remarks made by the Speaker about the crisis-hit country’s staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told parliament on Thursday September 22 that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had informed him that the cabinet had yet to be briefed about the government’s ongoing discussions with the IMF. The cabinet would be briefed “very soon” once all details were available, the president had said.
Members of the opposition and the Speaker would be invited to this briefing.
“That is what he told me this morning; to inform you that this has not been finalised. It has not been approved by the [IMF] board,” said Abeywardena.
More revisions need to be added, he said.
“The president informed me that even the cabinet has not [been] briefed about these discussions. Though they say it has been agreed with officials, it has to be approved by the IMF board. So before that, he has to have some discussion with the other creditor countries and their report also has be added into that. Until such time, it will not be decided by anybody (sp),” said the Speaker.
“So before that, there will be a cabinet briefing. Even the cabinet has not been informed yet. The cabinet will be briefed very soon once he received all the details.”
Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Lakshman Kiriella said that once cabinet has approved the agreement, it will be too late for parliament to pursue it. He asked the Speaker for an assurance that it would be submitted to parliament prior going to the cabinet.
The SJB has been calling for the IMF agreement to be tabled in parliament.
Speaker Abeywardena appeared to suggest that the president had consented to briefing both the cabinet and the opposition and other interested parties before going ahead, though his words were somewhat vague.
Online and SMS news alerts emerged soon after the speaker’s announcement, stating that the cabinet and the opposition would be briefed on the agreement only after the creditors’ report has been added and approved by the IMF board.
SJB MP Harsha de Silva referring to the news reports asked about their veracity, to which the Speaker said he might have been misquoted.
“What he told me was all the discussions and finalities (sp) are reached before going into the IMF that he will brief the cabinet and the relevant ministers,” he said. (Colombo/Sep22/2022)