ECONOMYNEXT – May 20, 2021, the day the controversial Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act was passed in parliament, will go down in Sri Lanka’s history as a day of betrayal, opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) general secretary Tilvin Silva said.
Ministers and MPs of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led government who voted for the bill have forfeited their right to boast about patriotism, Silva told reporters on May 21.
“They have long professed their love for the country. There were those who offered to lay down their lives to stop the MCC (the Washington-based Millennium Challenge Corporation) from coming here. There were those who went on hunger strikes. But now, without even the slightest protest, they raised their hands to pass this act that betrayed the country,” he said.
“All of these people will go down in history as people who contributed to this betrayal,” he added.
On May 20, 148 MPs of a 225-member assembly voted in favour of an amended law to set up a China-backed special economic zone which is expected to fast-track investments and be protected against currency deprecation.
Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court had earlier ruled that 26 provisions in the original draft bill were contrary to the constitution and it would require a two third majority to pass it in its original form.
The JVP general secretary claimed that the government had originally intended to effectively hand over the Port City to China in full.
“It wasn’t the patriots in the government who managed to minimise the damage [of the Economic Commission bill] to some extent; it was the JVP and a number of other parties who went to court in the limited window we had,” he said.
“The court decision was a victory for the country and a setback to the government. But despite this, they passed this with some amendments,” he added.
Silva was critical of the government’s rush to pass the act.
“There was no time for a public discussion or protest or anything of the sort. There is an epidemic and there are quarantine regulations in place, so no one could protest this on a big enough scale,” he said, accusing the government of using COVID-19 regulations to silence criticism.
“On the one hand, the government is selling the country, on the other they have allowed the people to die. There is no government today to protect the country or to save the people’s lives. They have a different agenda,” he said. (Colombo/May22/2021)