Friday, 08 November 2019 06:30

No conditions in Rs. 86 Bn MCC grant - Mangala

The only condition to receive USD 480 million (Rs.86 billion) grant under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Agreement is the protection of human rights, media freedom and democracy in the country, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera pointed out yeserday. Addressing a press conference at the Finance Ministry auditorium yesterday, Samaraweera recalled that it was he, as the then Foreign Minister, who, on the direction of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, went to the USA immediately after the elections in 2005, to negotiate and secure the MCC grant.

“Both parties agreed to sign it in September 2006, but the US reversed its decision in the wake of rising allegations of white van activities and extra-judicial and political killings etc. We were able to resume the talks in 2015 and the US agreed to give the grant as our Government showed commitment towards protecting human rights and democracy. Today, Opposition groups try to create an anti-American fear psychosis for the benefit of their election campaigns. This was not the first time they resorted to creating bogeys for political mileage. They created an Indian bogey against the Suwaseriya Ambulance Service, a Muslim bogey in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks and a Tamil bogey with claims that the LTTE was re-organizing. On the verge of elections, these groups are now troubled by their looming defeat,” Samaraweera commented.

Samaraweera, taking pains to dispel the doubts and fears of the public on the MCC agreement while debunking the false rumours against it, said that he would immediately retire from politics if anybody could prove that even an inch of land would be given to the US under this agreement or show the page of a much-hyped map of an alleged economic corridor in the agreement.

“There is no economic corridor in this agreement. I invite those lawyers, doctors and tuition masters, who are widely criticizing the MCC, to read the agreement in full and pin point a word harmful to the country in it. The public must be aware of the conspiracy to forgo a benefit to the country. Anti-American sentiments similar to now were expressed when the American radio Voice of America was set up in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Samaraweera pointed out that the Cabinet approval for the MCC was taken after weeks of thorough discussion, and that this was done prior to the Presidential Election because preliminary approval of the recipient country was a must for the MCC to give approval for the grant at its next Director Board meeting scheduled in the December second week.

“If we missed it, we have to wait till March or April next year for the Director Board to meet again. However, the implementation of the Agreement is after Parliament approval. It will be presented to Parliament after the Presidential Election,” he explained.

The minister highlighted that the priority areas to utilize the grant was decided by the Government according to the requirements of the country. Under the MCC, USD 350million has been allocated for an advanced traffic management system (USD 160 million), a bus transport service modernization (USD 50million) and a Central Ring Road Network (USD 140 million). Under the MCC, USD 67 million has been allocated for the Land Project in eight districts.

Responding to a question by a journalist as to whether there is an exit clause, Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. R.H.S.Samaratunga said it could be done having given notice 30 days beforehand.

(Daily News)

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