US denies releasing grant to SL under MCC pact

US denies releasing grant to Sri Lanka under MCC agreement

by Staff Writer 26-06-2020 | 10:11 PM
COLOMBO (News 1st): The US Embassy in Colombo has denied releasing any financial grant to Sri Lanka under the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement. This was after a committee appointed to review the MCC agreement, on Thursday, said the former government had received USD 10 million out of the total USD 480 million grant. Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, who led the committee, that submitted its report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said the agreement had been signed under two phases in 2017 and 2018. However, details regarding the signing of the pact had been divulged by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in February this year. "Two additional agreements were signed on July 26, 2019, and June 18 2018," Dissanayake stressed. "Not only have they signed these agreements, but they have also already received 10 million rupees from these agreements," the JVP leader said at that time. However, members of the former government denied any knowledge of signing the pact. "It was not us but the Finance Minister at the time who presented this," Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, a former minister, and the general secretary of the United National Party (UNP) said. He added that the legal action must be taken against such moves, and claimed that false revelations are being made on the verge of the August 5 parliamentary election. Members of the ruling faction pledged all steps would be taken to enable Sri Lanka to get rid of the pact under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. "We will never agree to these subservient agreements," Wimal Weerawansa, an election candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna told reporters on Friday. "We will bring before the law and punish anyone who attempts to betray the country and allow foreigners to take ownership over it," Rohitha Abeygunawardena, another ruling faction member remarked. The US embassy responded with a timeline of events related to the program, according to which Sri Lanka had qualified for the MCC grant in December 2015. Between January and November 2016, the government had hired Harvard University, which identifies weak transport infrastructure and land administration as binding constraints to a country's growth. The detailed project proposal was submitted to the MCC in November 2017, following which it had been approved in July 2018. In September that year, the then President had met with the Chief Executive Officer of MCC in New York. A month later Sri Lanka, led by the treasury secretary and an MCC delegation had negotiated compact and its terms of assistance, according to the timeline. In April 2019, the MCC had approved the USD 480 mn grant agreement while the project centred around land administration and the transport sector had been approved in October. The US embassy said, in February this year that the US and the Sri Lankan governments discussed the next steps of the project. However, the Embassy has forgotten a fact about the operation of an MCC office at Temple Trees, which served as the official residence of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz had expressed agreement to support the development of Sri Lanka's energy sector during a meeting with power minister Mahinda Amaraweera on Thursday. The Ambassador had informed the minister that the US is willing to provide technical assistance on constructing the country's first LNG Power Plant. In addition, the Ambassador had also agreed to extend technical support to curb traffic congestion. Yesterday, the committee that reviewed the MCC agreement had heavily criticized the land administration project listed out in the pact. Is attention being drawn towards energy-related projects, to divert the scope of the MCC agreement from land administration to energy? Countries like Liberia, Benin and Ghana have already commenced energy-related projects. Against such a backdrop, attempts are also being made to implement energy-related projects in Nepal under the MCC agreement. Is the US Ambassador eyeing energy-related projects in Sri Lanka, to bring forth the MCC agreement in a different form?