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No SOFA proposed to Cabinet; MCC will need Oversight Committee review – PM’s Office

File Photo Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe/PM Media

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to be signed between Sri Lanka and the United States has yet to be proposed to the Cabinet while the equally controversial Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact will be subject to Parliamentary Oversight Committee review, the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday.

Insisting that there is no SOFA as speculated by the media at present, the PM’s Office said the line Ministry, the Ministry of Defence, has made no such proposal to the Cabinet.

In a strongly worded letter written to newly appointed Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, the PM’s Office expressed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s surprise at the CCC’s request last week for an “enhanced level of transparency” regarding SOFA and the MCC compact.

Calling for due process, the CCC in its statement last week expressed its concern over what it called the increasing levels of speculation on the consequences surrounding the two proposed agreements.

This request for clarification has come under criticism by the Prime Minister who, according to the letter addressed to Dr. Wijayasuriya, was “perturbed by the CCC’s express ignorance” of the agreements.

“Politicisation of this reputable business conglomerate under your recent assumption of leadership is to be much regretted,” the letter signed by Secretary to the Prime Minister E. M. S. B. Ekanayake said.

Ekanayake also went on to remind the CCC Chairman that the organisation had been duly informed of ongoing negotiations pertaining to the MCC compact between 2016 and 2018 – specifically on 4 April 2016, 7 April 2016, 8 April 2016, 14 June 2016, 22 June 2016, 5 April 2017, 6 April 2017, 9 October to 19 October 2018 and 27 October 2018.

“As you are aware these projects were proposed by the Government of Sri Lanka. The US Government provided the USD490 million as a grant. After the signing of the compact, it had to be presented to the Parliament for legislative approval – a legal procedure that is followed in the USA and some continental European countries,” said Ekanayake, adding that according to Standing Orders of the Parliament, the compact will be reviewed by the Oversight Committee and be opened to interested parties.

 “While appreciating the opportunity to reiterate these facts pertaining to these matters, the Prime Minister is also somewhat surprised that the CCC which has been a stakeholder participating in the process is now claiming ignorance,” the PM’s Office reiterated.

“In [the Prime Minister’s] view, this brings up the question of your own motives and credibility in following the line taken by certain political parties with their own political agenda for elections,” it added.