Friday, May 12, 2017

Sri Lanka: Professionals raise contentious issues with Indian Prime Minister Modi

( May 11, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Professionals’ National Front has raised a series of contentious issues including the Trincomalee oil tank farm and a bridge to link the two countries in a letter addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to arrive here tomorrow to inaugurate UN Vesak celebrations.
The grouping yesterday handed over the letter to First Secretary (Political) Ramesh Babuthe Indian High Commission requesting that it handed over to Premier Modi.
The following is the text of the letter signed by its President Dr Anuruddha Padeniya and Secretary Kapila Perera: “We came to know that Your Excellency would arrive in Sri Lanka as a guest of honour to participate in the Vesak celebrations. We are grateful to you for acknowledging the relevance and the usefulness of Buddhism to today’s world.
“At the same time, we regret to note that as professionals we are forced to oppose and condemn your government’s insistence on Sri Lanka to sign the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) which has generated strong opposition in our country. We believe as professionals of Sri Lanka that it is our duty to inform you regarding the realistic situation of the country. Because of the non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that are operative through the State Governments of India and other such measures, the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) that has been already signed between India & Sri Lanka, has been almost of no use to Sri Lankan exporters. As a result, the trade balance between Sri Lanka and India has expanded exponentially over the years and the trade deficit has increased to more than $ 3.5 billion by year 2016. As professionals, we cannot agree on your government influencing the Sri Lankan government to enter into a new Free Trade Agreement (ETCA) to include Services in addition to Trade, without taking any tangible steps to solve the existing serious issues with the prevailing ISFTA.
“We also wish to draw your attention to the understanding reached on the oil tank farm in Trincomalee in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed during the recent visit of our Prime Minister to your country. Currently, there is a case filed in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka requesting to declare that the occupation of the oil tank farm by Indian Oil Company (IOC) as illegal. In such a context we cannot agree with your government forcing Sri Lanka to hand over the oil tanks to a joint venture between Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation and Indian Oil Company (IOC) and to hand over the whole land where the oil tank farm is established including all access roads to the Indian Oil Company (IOC). We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to this.
“In addition, the government of India influencing the Sri Lankan government on constructing a highway connecting Trincomalee and Talaimannar across the less populated areas is questionable. Even during the reconstruction of the Railway line from Thalaimannar to Medawachchiya under the Indian line of credit, a lot of pressure was exerted on our government to extend the line up to Trincomalee. Even today, this line is used by very few passengers. Under the circumstances that separatist threats are still present in our Motherland, this highway (and the railway) can eventually become a dividing line between the North and the South of the country. Further, we observe your government’s ambitions to connect Trincomalee harbour to India through this highway and the Hanuman Bridge which connects Thalaimannar and Danushkody, as a great threat to the Independence and the Sovereignty of our country.
“In 1947, India (which was established in 1858 by an Act passed in the English Parliament incorporating the several separate ‘kingdoms’) received independence. One year later, Sri Lanka (which has a written history of over 2,500 years) received independence. While appreciating the efforts being made by you to make India a powerful nation, we humbly request you not to exert influence on the rights of our citizens to determine the future of our motherland. We earnestly hope and wish that India will be a great friend of Sri Lanka.