Prof. Gunaruwan says external interventions on the rise as crisis takes heavy toll

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By Shamindra Ferdinando


Prof. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, yesterday (08),warned of foreign powers taking advantage of the current political-economic social crisis here to advance their selfish agendas at the expense of Sri Lanka.

Prof. Gunaruwan alleged that foreign powers were all out to subject Sri Lanka to their economic domination by making strategic investments.

Prof. Gunaruwan said so when The Island sought his views on challenges faced by Sri Lanka caught up in a battle for supremacy between China and the ‘Quad’ alliance, comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia.

Unless remedial measures were taken to rectify the flawed foreign and economic policies, the country would face a catastrophe, Prof. Gunaruwan warned, drawing the attention of the Parliament to the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s foreign and economic policies, during the 1970-1977 period.

Current challenges in the context of China vs ‘Quad’ should be studied against the backdrop of neo-liberal policies followed by successive governments, to varying degrees, since 1977, leading to the still developing crisis, Prof. Gunaruwan said. It would be a grave mistake, on Sri Lanka’s part, to believe the balance of payments and debt crises could be resolved by securing the latest IMF bailout package worth USD 2.9 bn.

Prof. Gunaruwan, who headed a presidential committee that advised the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government not to not sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact, without major revisions, said that Sri Lanka should be extremely cautious in dealing with foreign policy challenges.

The committee handed over its report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in late June 2020.

Responding to another query, Prof. Gunaruwan said that those at the helm of political power, as well as the defence top brass should be really sensitive to what was happening in the context of the overall Indo-Pacific strategy. The MCC couldn’t be discussed without taking into consideration the US-led Indo-Pacific strategy and ‘Quad’ politics.

Asked whether the incumbent government had an opportunity to sign the MCC, Prof. Gunaruwan said that the previous administration could have done so. The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government could go ahead with it. The committee, that had been appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to inquire into the MCC compact, pointed out flaws, and recommended remedial measures, Prof. Gunaruwan said.

Noting that bilateral agreements, with foreign countries have historically lacked transparency, the senior economics Don said that the committee pointed how the MCC compact could undermine the very basis of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, in case it was signed in its present form.

The report also dealt with how it could have impacted the country, in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in 2015, Prof. Gunaruwan said, adding that the committee also pointed out how a law, inimical to the country, could have been enacted in Parliament.

Noting that Yahapalana government entered into Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) in August 2017, Prof. Gunaruwan stressed the importance of studying the implications of ACSA, MCC compact, as well as Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) aka Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), as the country increasingly comes under pressure from various quarters.

Declining to comment on what would happen to the proposed SOFA/VFA, Prof. Gunaruwan said that its fate depend on the government, Parliament and the public. Asked how he viewed the recent controversy over the clandestine visit undertaken by CIA Director, William Joseph Burns et al in two massive aircraft to Colombo, Prof. Gunaruwan said that it shouldn’t be an issue if the official followed proper procedures.

However, in case, both the government and the US embassy suppressed the visit, it portended a serious threat, Prof. Gunaruwan said.

Commenting on President Ranil Wickrtemesinghe’s recent instructions to restore the unused section of the China Bay Oil Tank Farm, Prof. Gunaruwan said that successive governments had caused irreparable damage by facilitating agendas pursued by opposing camps.

An expanded deal on Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm with India, Yugadanavi energy deal with US-based New Fortress Energy, leasing Hambantota port for a period 99 years to China, Mannar and Pooneryn renewable energy projects to India’s Adani as well as foreign investments at the Colombo harbour, caused concerns for obvious reasons, he said.

Those who caused the economic crisis should accept the responsibility for brazen foreign interventions here, Prof. Gunaruwan said. Comparing Sri Lanka’s bankruptcy status with that of an insolvent family, the Professor emphasized that the country would have to make huge sacrifices to overcome what he described as overwhelming challenges.

Courtesy The Island

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Disclaimer: Prof. Gunaruwan says external interventions on the rise as crisis takes heavy toll - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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