Sri Lanka’s bilateral aid not at risk: Amunugama

ECONOMYNEXT- Foreign governments have not withdrawn grants, project loans and economic programmes with Sri Lanka, said Sarath Amunugama, who was controversially appointed as Foreign Minister amid a constitutional crisis.

"Certain countries have stated that they’re watching the situation in Sri Lanka. That’s the maximum situation," he said, speaking to foreign correspondents at a briefing this morning.

"That’s a standard expression of concern. Nobody has indicated, or started negotiations or curtailed any of the existing grants and aids," Amunugama said.

"There have been no changes and no exchange of letters. Bilateral efforts are not in jeopardy."

He was replying to a question from a reporter on whether the GSP Plus duty free facility with the EU, along with aid and grants from the US and Japan were at risk of cancellation during the current constitutional crisis.

President Maithripala Sirisena sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and appointed former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as the premier last month. This was followed by the appointment of a cabinet, the proroguing of parliament, followed eventually with the dissolving of parliament.

The move to dissolve parliament is now being contested at the Supreme Court.

The US’ Millenium Challenge Corporation, which was set to give a 480 million dollar grant in December, said that it is observing the situation closely.

Amunugama said that he has had a discussion with the Japanese Ambassador, and there are currently no plans for Japan to stop their projects in Sri Lanka.

Reuters quoted the EU Ambassador saying that Sri Lanka is risking GSP Plus after the appointment of Rajapaksa, whose policies on reconciliation and human rights may not be aligned with the EU’s expectation when the trade benefits were given.





At a meeting held earlier in the morning for ambassadors in Sri Lanka, the envoys from EU countries, who have been vocal in recent weeks, had not attended, except for a representative from the EU and the head of the Romanian mission.

Amunugama brushed off any implications from the non-attendance.

"Our duty is to invite these people. We have had no difficulties with them," he said.

He said that all action taken by President Sirisena have been constitutional, since the 19th Amendment left several loopholes which allow the president to wield full executive power.

Amunugama said that the government is not concerned over foreign countries not congratulating the incumbent regime.

"Congratulations need not come overnight. There may be some countries which are watching the situation," he said.

"But none of them have said that they are not interacting with us, or not recognizing."

He said a letter of congratulations is not required for recognition.

Amunugama said when the government came to power, there was uncertainty, but the current cabinet is only operating in a caretaker role, and it is not concerned over felicitations from foreign states.

"It’s a caretaker government so we’re not losing sleep over that," he said. (Colombo/Nov12/2018)


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