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21-A prerequisite for IMF loan:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, owed an explanation as regards his claim that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had demanded the enactment of 21 Amendment to the Constitution as a prerequisite for the finalisation of USD 2.9 bn Extended Fund Facility Arrangement (EFFA) with Sri Lanka, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, MP, said yesterday.

The SLPP MP said that the much-touted IMF loan hadn’t materialised yet though Sri Lanka had enacted the 21st Amendment on 21 Oct. In fact, there was no clear indication when the IMF facility would be made available in the coming year, the former Public Security Minister said.

MP Weerasekera said that he had voted against the 21st Amendment as he couldn’t under any circumstances support it after having voted for 20th Amendment. Of the 225-member parliament, 179 voted in favour, one against while 45 skipped the vote.

Weerasekera said that Minister Sabry had declared 21 Amendment as being a prerequisite for the IMF loan at a parliamentary group meeting chaired by President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat.

According to Weerasekera, Minister Sabry underscored the need for the enactment of the Amendment in response to his strong opposition to the move.

Lawmaker Weerasekera told The Island: “The government should make its position clear on the draft constitution prepared by a team led by Romesh de Siva PC. When the parliamentary group discussed the 21st Amendment, I pointed out the availability of constitutional proposals prepared by Romesh de Silva’s team that included Manohara de Silva, PC. That team undertook the project on the then Justice Minister Sabry’s request soon after the last parliamentary elections.”

MP Weerasekera opted out of the cabinet of ministers when the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa re-constituted the cabinet in April amidst political turmoil.

The former minister said that he expected the IMF to set the record straight. The IMF couldn’t justify interfering in purely a domestic matter, MP Weerasekera said while acknowledging there had been constant external interventions beginning with the 13th Amendment introduced at India’s behest.

Referring to Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) taking up the constitution making process during yahapalana administration and India raising the 13th Amendment at Geneva, MP Weerasekera said that interested parties seemed to be exploiting continuing economic-political-social crisis here to pursue their agendas.

“There is no point in denying the fact that we are vulnerable to foreign interference. Instead of reaching agreement on a workable plan to stabilize the economy, we are bending backwards to appease the Tamil National Alliance. Having recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil speaking people way back in 2001, the TNA today has the audacity to demand accountability on the part of the government,” MP Weerasekera said.

All political parties have also conveniently forgotten how the TNA jointly called for Northerners to boycott the 2005 presidential election, MP Weerasekera said.

The former Minister appreciated President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s readiness to reexamine his decision to grant Divisional Secretaries the power to deal with state land, including Mahaweli lands.

President Wickremesinghe assured the parliament on Dec 07 that a legal committee would be appointed to examine the issues at hand after MP Weerasekera, on a request made by him, got an opportunity to discuss the matter with the President.

The State giving up its authority on land should be examined against the backdrop of constant pressure being exerted on Sri Lanka for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, MP Weerasekera said.

Responding to another query, Weerasekera warned that external interventions would be intensified in the New Year as Sri Lanka sought further assistance to cope up with the economic crisis. If Minister Sabry’s declaration as regards IMF insistence on 21st Amendment is accepted, then the Washington headquartered organisation wanted some other demand or demands met, MP Weerasekera asked.