Colombo (News1st) – A forum organised by the Professionals Association of Sri Lanka on the Sri Lanka – Singapore Free trade agreement was held in Colombo recently and it revealed a great many details regarding the FTA.
The forum was chaired by Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrema. Advisor to the Ministry Mangala Yapa and Secretary to the Ministry Chandani Wijewardena also attended the event.
Representatives of many trade unions attended the forum and we clearly saw how the Subject Minister was bombarded with questions.
Minister Malik Samarawickrama speaking at the occasion stated that the FTA was signed by him based on the authorisation he received from Cabinet and the advice issued by the Attorney General. He noted that if he had done something wrong, the cabinet would have made it clear to him. The Ministers statement drew a great deal of ire from those present at the occasion.
Responding to a question raised by a member of the audience Samarawickrama admitted that they “did not inform the public” about what they were doing. He stated that the lack of awareness was a lapse on the part of the Government.
THE MAHENDRAN CONNECTION
Another questionÂ that was raised was pertaining to theÂ rogueÂ ex-governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran. A member of the audience questioned how ethical it was for Sri Lanka to be represented by a Singaporean national during talks on the FTA.
The Minister initially denied that Mahendran was part of discussions on the FTA, however, the audience member pressed on and asked him to explain several images (which showed Malik Samarawikrama together with PM Wickremesinghe and Mahendran in Singapore), Minister Samarawickrama caved in and admitted that the Government had begun discussions on the FTA while Mahendran was present.
The question raised by the audience member was so effective that Secretary to the MinistryÂ Chandani Wijewardena experienced a literal facepalm moment.
BENEFITS TO SRI LANKA
While dismissing multiple claims from those who were present at the occasion Min. Samarawickrama continued to say that the FTA would benefit Sri Lanka. He stated that it would boost the FDIs entering Sri Lanka and stated as proof that 4 companies had already expressed interest in investing in the country. While it is hilarious that Sri Lanka needs an FTA to attract 4 companies, a reaction by a member of the audience was even funnier “is Volkswagon one of them?”
Following this exchange, Minister Malik Samarawicrama made a hasty exit from the forum, leaving Mangala Yapa andÂ Chandani Wijewardena to fend off the questions. As soon as the announcement was made that the Minister is leaving, members of the audience reacted by stating that there is no point in discussing the FTA with Mangala Yapa.
Mangala Yapa, the Adviser to the Ministry was recently named as the Head of the Sri Lanka Development Agency. But the Act required to establish a company to hold the position has not been passed in Parliament yet. This individual who was appointed to an illegal position is now creating awareness among the public about the Sri Lanka Singapore Free Trade Agreement.