The controversial Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact is in the news again, with both Government and Opposition MPs reacting to reports that its signing is imminent, with politically charged remarks coming from both sides.
Parliamentarians Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa and Athuraliye Rathna Thero took up the matter with President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday at a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the discussion, Rathana Thero said they had sought the meeting following whispers of a move to hurriedly sign the agreement yesterday evening itself.
This was amid reports that it would be signed before the upcoming presidential election. Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa had previously issued a statement yesterday that it should not be signed before the election as its contents were not yet known.
According to Rathana Thero, the President had telephoned Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera in their presence and had subsequently assured them that there were no plans to sign it yesterday.
Weerawansa, who also spoke to the media outside the Presidential Secretariat, said signing the MCC compact at a time when the Government is about to change is dangerous. He claimed that Sirisena had approved the document only under the condition that it would not be signed prior to the 16 November polls.
The President had also assured them, according to the MP, that if the Government was indeed planning on singing it in the coming weeks, he would take every measure necessary to prevent it.
Gammanpila, meanwhile, noting that the Executive Director of MCC had previously said they would not sign the agreement before the election, said the UNP was keen to bring Sri Lanka under the agreement as they’re well aware of their coming defeat.
“We wish to tell the United States that we will be the ruling party in the government for the foreseeable future. There is no point in signing agreements with a government about to lose as we will not accept it,” he said.
The Finance Ministry in a media statement yesterday said that the whole process and the final agreements pertaining to the MCC were formulated under the guidance of the Attorney General and well within the legal framework.
The AG is of the opinion that the agreements are in order and there exists no legal impediment to executing the same, the statement added.
A Cabinet Memorandum along with the final drafts of the agreements was submitted on 31 May 2019 to the Cabinet of Ministers, following which the Cabinet appointed a committee for further discussion. The Ministry of Finance had then submitted the Cabinet Memorandum dated 05 July 2019 seeking the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers for signing the Compact Agreement and the Program Implementation Agreement where the Cabinet of Ministers granted its approval for signing the agreements on 29 Oct 2019.
“The Compact Agreement and the Program Implementation Agreement will be submitted to and enacted by Parliament of Sri Lanka once it is signed and before its entry into force and will be published in the Government Gazette before submitted to Parliament,” it added.
Issuing a separate statement today, the US Embassy said the MCC compact would be submitted for parliamentary approval after being signed.
“Once the grant assistance agreement is signed, the Government of Sri Lanka will send it to parliament for approval,” said the Embassy, noting that parliamentary review and approval were required by the MCC to ensure the grant assistance agreement has the support of the government and the people of Sri Lanka.
“Once the agreement is submitted to Parliament, the Parliament will have ample opportunity to review the grant assistance agreement. During that review period, the Government of Sri Lanka will develop plans to implement the grant assistance agreement and design projects to improve transportation and land administration,” it added.