Singapore agreement that has been treacherously signed by the Ranil – Maithri administration completely erodes the economy of the country says the Member of the Political Bureau of the JVP Comrade Sunil Handunneththi MP addressing a seminar held under the theme ‘Singapore agreement & the future of Sri Lanka’s economy’ in Colombo on the 13th.
The seminar was also addressed by Senior Lecturer Dr Anil Jayantha and Charted Accountant Nalaka Jayaweera, Mr S.M.D. Suriyakumar, entrepreneur, was also present.
Making the keynote address Comrade Handunneththi said, “Singapore agreement has been signed violating the laws of eh country and eh Constitution. A trade agreement should bed signed adhering to the financial regulations of the country. It should bed according to the Constitution. However, the Singapore agreement has been signed without adhering to any of these. The agreement was signed within a month. It has not followed the process of discussing in the cabinet, sending it to the Attorney General and then getting the approval of the cabinet. Certain ministers had requested that the agreement should be presented to parliament. However, it has been signed without presenting it to Parliament. What is the intention of signing this agreement and what is the necessity of the Ranil – Maithri administration to sign such an agreement?
The government introduced a ‘new trade policy’. There haven’t been any discussions regarding it as well nor was it presented to Parliament. When we went to parliament there was the ‘new trade policy’ on our tables. There was neither media discussion nor a discussion by any Commercial body, businessmen or industrialists. The trade policy of the country has been compiled without any such discussion. The main essence of the policy is to liberalize trade through open economic agreements. This is how they sign the Singapore agreement. This agreement makes the whole country an open market. It is a market where anyone in the region could perch on.
Despite having ‘Singapore’ for the trade agreement, it is really an agreement signed with the World Trade Organization. For, the agreement has been signed according to the needs and conditions of the WTO. If the agreement had India in its name there would have been other political interferences. Thee would have been a massive mass protest. That’s why Singapore, which has a free economy, was dragged into the agreement.
Also, Mr Mangala Samaraweera when he presented the budget proposals last time said their economic policy which is the open economic policy could not be implemented properly. This agreement has been brought to implement their economic policy to the maximum. It is one presented due to the pressure from WTO. WTO has been condemned by the masses in many countries in the world. They don’t even have a place to meet now. That is why various countries are forced to sign this type of bilateral agreements.
The preamble to the agreement states it applies not only to the relevant two parties (Singapore and Sri Lanka) but also to other parties. [It states, “BUILDING on their respective rights and obligations under the WTO Agreement and other multilateral, regional and bilateral agreements and arrangements to which they are party.”]
As Minister Mangala Samaraweera said why couldn’t they implement the open economic policy in a manner they wanted to? From the past, the people in our country, trade unions and political parties such as the JVP acted against such harmful policies and agreements. As such, the rulers were unable to implement such policies and agreements. That’s why the Singapore agreement was not presented to parliament before it was signed. This is a treacherously signed agreement. There was a debate in Parliament without the agreement. It was like a wedding without the bride.
The agreement has agreed to receive faeces from all over the world. This country will become a dumping ground for garbage from all over the world. Doesn’t this have an ill effect on the Chamber of Commerce, entrepreneurs and industrialists? We believe that their voices have been blocked. As a political party, we are not very much affected due to this agreement. For, no political party from abroad would come to this country to contest an election. However, the agreement will have the worst effect on the people and the economy of the country. This is why we are against the agreement. The shoe industry, ceramic industry and paint industry in our country can supply 100% of the demand for such products in the country. Such industries would create a large number of employment opportunities. However, the agreement will completely wipe off these local industries. For through this agreement more than 7000 types of goods would not be taxable. Then all these goods could be imported and our industries will be stranded. Also, the country will lose all income from customs duties and taxes from imported goods. This is why we say this agreement should be opposed as a society.
Recently, 57,000 graduates had applied for jobs. Only 4100 got jobs. Annually, a large number of those who pass the A/L are added to the unemployed lot. A very large number in our country get added to this unemployed lot. What happens to the services sector in such an environment? Chinese will come from China to man Chinese restaurants. Foreign tour guides can guide tourists in our country. Also, doors will be open for legal counselling firms. In this manner, foreign workers, professionals would be able to enter all the services. As such, the Singapore agreement is one that affects the whole country, the economy and the future. When we say this the government says we create demons. Ranil – Maithri – Malik regime states the agreement is controlled by other laws and regulations in the country. We would like to ask these gentlemen couldn’t the government that signed the Singapore agreement treacherously change rules and regulations that would be obstacles to implementing it?
In the past, Mr J.R. Jayawardene brought in an open market economy saying Sri Lanka would be made another Singapore. Today, the current government has made Sri Lanka Singapore’s market. Chandrika came to power promising humane characteristics to the open economy as sold state institutions. Today, this government is selling what has been left. This agreement has been signed to completely erode the economy of the country. Already, foreigners who have entered Sri Lanka with tourist visas are employed at various places. We discussed in COPE to ban paying salaries for foreigners who are employed with tourist visas. However, the ‘kitchen cabinet’ of the likes of Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken a decision to pay the foreigners who have entered this country with a tourist visa and are employed to be paid in dollars.
The Chamber of Commerce, entrepreneurs, as well as the media, are silent about this. When there is such an important topic the media is raking garbage. This is a very regrettable situation. The WTO pays special attention to our country as ours is situated at a very strategic location. Their attempt is to manage the resources of our country, our forests, genes through economic agreements. As such, we, as Sri Lankans, should rise up against such vile attempts. This struggle should be launched as a new anti-imperialist struggle. However, the mediation of intellectuals and scholars in this matter is not very favourable. We invite all of them to rally with us to carry out this struggle.”