SL’s foreign policy is neutral- President | Sunday Observer

SL’s foreign policy is neutral- President

1 November, 2020

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that he is not ready to compromise the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation in maintaining foreign relations whatever the circumstances may be.

Noting that China has assisted in the development of the country’s infrastructure since the end of the war, the President reiterated that Sri Lanka is not caught in a debt trap as a result. Elaborating on the foreign policy of Sri Lanka, the President said it is based on neutrality. He said relations between Sri Lanka and other nations are determined by several conditions. Historic and cultural relations and development cooperation are some of the priorities.

President Rajapaksa made these remarks when a high-level US delegation led by the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo called on the President at the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday (October (28). During the cordial discussion between the two parties, views on a number of areas of bilateral and regional importance were exchanged. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the United States is ready to continuously engage with Sri Lanka in its bid to achieve economic development goals.

He said the USA expects to further develop the already existing strong bilateral relations between the two countries. Expressing the desire of the United States to continue to work closely with Sri Lanka in achieving a high level of economic development, Secretary of State, Pompeo, said priority will be given to promote US investments in the island.

President Rajapaksa told the high-powered US delegation, “We have already begun to remove bureaucratic red tape that hinders foreign investment. Sri Lanka possesses necessary factors to achieve a high level of agricultural development. Our agriculture sector should be modernised. Scientific research should be conducted in order to reach this goal. We expect your assistance towards this end.”

Defence Cooperation

The two parties agreed to further strengthen the defence cooperation already established between Sri Lanka and the United States. These include training opportunities and material assistance from the United States to Security Forces personnel in Sri Lanka. When President Rajapaksa emphasised the need to strengthen the Coast Guard service to combat drug trafficking, the Secretary of State said that the US could assist in this endeavour. Secretary of State, Pompeo, said the United States wishes to see that the Indian Ocean remains a Peace Zone. He expressed satisfaction over the existing friendly ties between Sri Lanka and India. President Rajapaksa stated that Sri Lanka also hopes to see peace in the Indian Ocean. Both parties agreed to work together on human rights issues in international forums.

When asked as to what the purpose of his visit to Sri Lanka was, particularly less than a week ahead of the US Presidential Election, Pompeo told the reporters it was to strengthen the bilateral relationship. He said “the Foreign Minister and I had a great conversation and I had a very positive conversation with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa a bit earlier this morning as well. My overall message in both engagements was very clear. The US seeks to strengthen our partnership with a democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and fully sovereign Sri Lanka.” Pompeo also expressed confidence that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation.

Commitment

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, departed Sri Lanka on Wednesday (October 28) by reiterating America’s commitment to Sri Lanka’s development within a democratic framework and painting China as a “predatory” foreign power. However, the Embassy of China in Colombo meanwhile hit back at the comments of US Secretary of State, tweeting: “Sorry Mr. [email protected], we’re busy promoting #China-#SriLanka friendship and cooperation, not interested in your #AlienVsPredator game invitation.

The US can play two roles at the same time as always.” Following the bilateral discussions, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had also tweeted that Sri Lanka will not be embroiled in the conflicts between power blocs and insisted on maintaining a neutral stance in the country’s foreign policy.

Former Minister Vajira Abeywardena has said that the Government should reveal to the country and its citizens, the purpose of the US Secretary of State’s visit to Sri Lanka saying that Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had said that the US Secretary of State’s visit is merely to reiterate the US support to the development and education sectors.

Addressing a recent media briefing held at Sirikotha, the party headquarters, he said that those in the present Government would have accused the former Government for selling off the country to the US, had the US Secretary of State visited the country during the UNP Government. Abeywardena said that the UNP was not afraid to work with any country in the world. He also said that the UNP Governments had also received aid from the United States in the past.

The Main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balawegaya on Thursday (October 29) made an appeal to the Speaker, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, with regard to the allocation of seats in the House to the party members who backed the Government during the vote on the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Chief Opposition Whip, MP Lakshman Kiriella, in a letter addressed to the Speaker, said the Parliamentary group of the SJB has decided to oust the following party members: Diana Gamage, Aravindh Kumar, Ishak Rahuman, Faizal Cassim, H.M.M. Harees, M.S. Thowfeek, Nazeer Ahamed, Ali Sabri Raheem and S.M.M. Muszhaaraff. Thereby, he requested that these parliamentarians be assigned seats in the Government benches. Eight of these SJB legislators had supported the Government to pass the 20th Amendment by voting in its favour. Earlier, SJB Parliamentarian Hesha Withanagesaid Party Leaders Rishad Bathiudeen and Rauff Hakeem should be expelled from the Alliance as all their MPs have crossed over to the Government. Speaking to reporters he said that the party unanimously decided to oppose the 20th Amendment during the Parliamentary Group meeting, “when party Leader Sajith Premadasa asked who is for the 20A and everyone raised their hands against the 20A,” he said.

Draft Bill

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena gave his assent to the draft bill of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution on Thursday (October 29). Speaker Abeywardane had placed his signature validating the 20th Amendment to the Constitution which was passed in Parliament with two thirds majority on October 22.

The Speaker signed the blueprint of the Constitutional Amendment at around 11.30 am on Thursday. The draft bill has been signed at the Office of the Speaker in the presence of the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General of Parliament. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution will be implemented in full from October 29 and the new Constitutional Amendment will now be considered as the law of the country with immediate effect.

SJB Parliamentarian, Dr. Kavinda Jayawardena told the media that some Government lawmakers who spoke against the United States cannot be even found now. Speaking to the media he said “We never spoke against countries like America or India or China or Germany or the UK. We did not say ‘no to America’. But those who said ‘no to America’ like Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa and Dr. Seetha Arambepola can’t be even found now.” MP Jayawardena made these comments in reference to the recent visit by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to Sri Lanka. Minister Udaya Gammanpila, speaking to reporters said that the last time they were afraid of such visits was because the then Government was in agreement to sign the SOFA and MCC agreements and the US was also in agreement. He said “It takes two hands to clap,” he said and also said that although the US wants to go forward with the agreement now, the incumbent Government has no need to go forward with those agreements.

Budget

The Government’s budget for the year 2021 will be presented to Parliament on November 17. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will present the Budget in Parliament in his capacity as the Finance Minister. The Government will present the budget based on President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s ‘Vistas of Prosperity’ Policy Statement targeting peoplecentric development, economic development and welfare for the people. Focus would also be paid to uplifting the businesses that have suffered setbacks and uplifting of the business sector.

State Minister of Finance and Capital Market and Public Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivaard Cabraal during a recent media briefing at the Ministry of Finance said the Government expects to ensure that the consolidation of the fiscal deficit is brought down to a level of about 4 per cent in the next few years. He said, “This year was a tough year. We had to make payments of around two per cent pertaining to the previous year’s unpaid bills.

But we thought we should settle that to spur economic activity once again and the Government took a conscious call to do that, even though it would mean that the fiscal deficit might increase to some extent.”

He said the budget will contain measures that will be taken to consolidate the fiscal deficit while at the same time introduce measures to improve the Sri Lanka’s growth story and to take the economy forward. Cabral said “As you know a six and a half per cent growth has been targeted. We are not moving away from that. We want to maintain that as our overall aim.”

MCC

National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader Minister Wimal Weerawansa told the media that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had assured the Cabinet of Ministers that his Government wouldn’t sign the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) agreement. He said the Cabinet had received that assurance before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrival in Colombo on Tuesday, 27.
Addressing the media at the NFF party office on Thursday (October 29) Weerawansa said the issue had been discussed at length at the Cabinet before the arrival of Secretary of State, Pompeo. He said the NFF wouldn’t remain in the Government if it signed the MMC agreement, which he said, was detrimental to Sri Lanka’s interests.
Weerawansa further said “Those who have got so excited over the arrival of the US Secretary of State, didn’t make even a sound when then US Secretary of State John Kerry came into the country during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government. Now, when the US Secretary of State visits the country during President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s rule, they make a big fuss. They were waiting until the MCC was signed. When the media asked about the MCC agreement from the US Secretary of State Pompeo, he said that it is up to the Sri Lankan government to sign the agreement or not. When the previous government stealthily signed the preliminary agreement of the MCC, the ‘three percent vote base political party’ just kept mum.”

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