The Sunday Leader

Rajapaksa Govt Facing Failures Of The ‘Medamulana Doctrine’

  • Govt discussing budgetary support from the IMF
  • Objections sent to UNHRC against Pillay’s report

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government for all its bravado at the 65th Independence Day celebrations last week is now eating humble pie by holding discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on securing a billion dollar budgetary support facility and preparing to re-apply for the EU’s GSP Plus trade concession.
The IMF delegation headed by John Nelms including IMF’s resident representative in Colombo Koshy Mathai is currently engaged in discussions with the government and members of the opposition.
The IMF delegation met with opposition UNP Parliamentarians Ravi Karunanayake, Kabir Hashim and Dr Harsha de Silva on the 7th.

JVP protest, G. L. meets Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, Mahinda Rajapaksa, bernard savage and Koshy Mathai

The meeting that had commenced at 6 p.m. had continued until 7.30 p.m.
During the meeting, the opposition MPs had explained that in the event the IMF agrees to grant the US$ 1.5 billion budgetary support facility requested by the government, the Fund would be accused of aiding and abetting the Rajapaksa government’s mismanagement of finances.
The IMF delegates had viewed with concern the opposition representatives’ explanation that the Rajapaksa government’s corruption and inefficiencies were dragging down the country.
Given the explanation on the country’s economy by the opposition legislators, the IMF delegation had agreed that the Rajapaksa government had in fact failed to fulfill some of the conditions laid down when the Fund granted the US$ 2.6 billion Stand By Arrangement. One of the key conditions was to convert the losses of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) into profits, which the government has failed miserably to do.
The IMF delegation is to return to Washington DC this week and report to the Board of Executives of their take on whether the Rajapaksa government should be given the requested funds.
Meanwhile, the government is also trying to regain the EU’s GSP Plus trade concession that was withdrawn from the country in 2010 due to the Rajapaksa government’s non-compliance with the international conventions on good governance and child and labour rights.
The Central Bank Governor who claimed that the country would not be faced with any serious consequences due to the loss of the GSP Plus facility has also had to eat humble pie while the Commerce Department commenced preparatory work to re-apply for the GSP Plus facility in June 2014.
While the initial documents to be submitted to the EU are being processed by the Commerce Department, the External Affairs Ministry is to carry out a campaign to regain the lost trade concession.
The loss of the GSP Plus facility has resulted in the closure of several hundred industrial factories in the country since 2010. Most of the factories have shifted their businesses out of Sri Lanka and most of them have relocated to Bangladesh.
After waxing eloquent about the economy’s resilience and non-dependence on the GSP Plus facility, the Rajapaksa government has had to accept the hard reality that a country’s economy does not function like a wayside kiosk.

Facing questions

It is learnt that the External Affairs Ministry consultative committee meeting in Parliament had seen the opposition legislators firing a wide-ranging set of questions at the government.
The question had also been posed on where External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris was since the committee was presided over by the acting minister.
The government was questioned on its foreign policies and failures in addressing issues before the international arena.
Among the key questions that were posed was one on the agreements signed between Peiris during his most recent visit to India. The government was asked why Parliament has not been informed of the details of the agreements and the progress made on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India.
The government during the discussion on agreements and building economic ties with foreign countries had confirmed that it was in the process of re-applying for the EU’s GSP Plus facility.
The opposition UNP members in the committee it is learnt had questioned the government on the report on Sri Lanka submitted to the Rajapaksa government by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.
The UNP has stated that the government needed to inform them of the observations made by Pillay in order to respond at national level.
The government has responded that following the due protocol; details would be submitted to Parliament.
It is evident that the Rajapaksa government is now in the line of fire both locally and internationally and can no longer “dodge the ball”.

Raising objections

As for Pillay’s report on Sri Lanka, the government it is learnt has raised objections saying it is a biased report.
Government sources told The Sunday Leader that Geneva has been informed of Sri Lanka’s objection to the report.
“The report has been compiled without any clue of the ground situation,” the source said.
The explanation was that the Rajapaksa government has already addressed some of the concerns raised in the report.
“This report is similar to the Darusman report, which was also one-sided and biased,” the source added.
Nevertheless, the government is studying Pillay’s report in order to prepare responses to the issues that could be raised at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva scheduled to commence on the 27th of this month.
Pillay’s office meanwhile it is learnt is to make public the report on Sri Lanka shortly.

CMAG issue

Apart from gearing to face the barrage of questions at the UNHRC session and another US sponsored resolution, the Rajapaksa government is also trying to ensure that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka at the end of this year proceeds without any hiccups.
In fact, it seems that the Rajapaksas are more concerned about CHOGM than the outcome of the 22nd UNHRC session.
Canada has managed to somehow get its concerns heard with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) deciding to include Sri Lanka on its agenda for the April meeting.
The CMAG which was scheduled to meet in March is to now meet in April instead.
According to diplomatic sources, the CMAG has been shifted to April in order to see the outcome of the UNHRC session where the Rajapaksa government is to face a second resolution within a period of one year.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, External Affairs Minister Prof. Peiris made a visit to London last week.
During a meeting with Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, Prof. Peiris had objected to the moves to include Sri Lanka as an agenda item at the CMAG.
The Minister had pointed out that such a course of action is contrary to the decisions taken by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Perth, Western Australia in October 2011 regarding the mandate of CMAG and the scope of its functions.
He had observed that any attempt to politicize the organization or to permit its structures and mechanisms to be used as instruments by some countries to interfere in the domestic issues of other countries, would inevitably distort the cultural ethos of the Commonwealth and pose significant challenges with regard to its future.
Prof. Peiris had briefed Sharma in detail about the arrangements currently being made by the government of Sri Lanka for the hosting of the main CHOGM conference in Colombo as well as the Commonwealth Business Forum, the People’s Forum and the Youth Forum, which will be held in Hambantota.
Sharma is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka this week.

JVP gains power

Meanwhile, the Rajapaksa government witnessed a show of strength by the JVP after some time.
After resolving its internal issues and undergoing a re-organization programme, the JVP last week put on a show with two protest marches and a rally in Colombo. The message was that the party was once again returning to the grassroots and has in fact expanded its base among urban and semi-urban areas.
The protest was held under the JVP led Anti Imperialist People’s Movement banner and a crowd of about 5,000 thronged to the Hyde Park following two marches – one which commenced from Punchi Borella and the other from the Lake House roundabout.
Even amidst the heavy rain that poured at the end of the protest marches, people still thronged to Hyde Park for the rally.
The main theme of the protest was to stand against imperialism and the dictatorial familial rule that governs the country.
Apart from this campaign, the JVP is currently engaged in a month long campaign to create awareness among people of the current political situation in the country through small scale public meetings at electoral level in order to build a closer rapport with the people.
If the JVP manages to build its power base to where it was in 2004, it will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with for the Rajapaksas. After all, it was the JVP alone that worked towards getting Mahinda Rajapaksa elected to office in 2005 with the support of a few SLFP members.

UNP’s dilemma

Interestingly, while the government and other opposition forces are engaged in carrying out their due activities in the current political scenario, the main opposition UNP is faced with a dilemma.
The issue that has posed the biggest problem to the UNP is to decide on the appointment to the post of deputy leader of the UNP.
The UNP Working Committee is to meet on the 14th to decide on the deputy leader.
It is speculated that party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has to decide between former deputy leader Sajith Premadasa and Colombo District Leader Ravi Karunanayake for the post of deputy leader.
It is learnt that Karunanayake has now gained the support of a majority of the party members due to the lack of confidence in Premadasa and his actions. Premadasa has also been accused of acting against party decisions, thereby posing a disciplinary problem.
However, the party leadership is looking at a solution to the issue by appointing both Karunanayake and Premadasa as deputy leaders.

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