Economy Next | 15 August 2023
By Shihar Aneez
Sri Lanka serious on laws to honour deals after diplomatic hiccups with India, Japan, US
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is seriously moving with a new laws which will prevent any of its future governments from backtracking bilateral and multilateral deals signed without the consent of the relevant parties involved, a government document showed.
The new move comes three years after the government of former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled several bilateral and multilateral deals including East Container Terminal (ECT) and Light Railway Transit (LRT) projects and resulted in diplomatic hiccups with India, Japan, the U.S. and Singapore, government officials say.
The Cabinet under the current president Ranil Wickremesinghe had discussed and decided that laws should be enacted to prevent deviation from those agreements without the consent of the relevant parties “after entering into bilateral and multilateral agreements that are determined to be essential for national development”.
“The Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the President to advise the legal draftsman to prepare a bill based on the preliminary draft prepared accordingly,” the government document on the cabinet decisions said.
Former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the $500 million ECT project, a tri-party agreement with India, Japan, and Sri Lanka. He also unilaterally revoked a Japanese LRT project without any consent of Tokyo.
Rajapaksa also rejected a free trade agreement (FTA) between Singapore and Sri Lanka after a group of professionals advising him said it will be harmful for the local professionals to find jobs, while he also cancelled a $480 million worth Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant on the advice of a committee appointed by him.
All ECT, LRT, Singapore FTA, and MCC agreements were signed by the government led by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before Rajapaksa won the presidency in November 2019 with a landslide.
Sri Lanka faced the repercussions of Rajapaksa’s unilateral decisions including diplomatic hiccups with India and Japan, which still vary to sign bilateral trade/investment agreement with Colombo government, government officials have told EconomyNext.
The new laws will prevent any future government from cancelling bilateral and multilateral deals signed by previous governments without the consent of the other party involved with such agreement.