Leader of the Joint Opposition in Parliament, MP Dinesh Gunawardena, vehemently opposing the proposed Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA), called on the Government to do away with the current agreement and draft a new FTA which would not damage local markets and industries.
“Local industries will face serious consequences as a result of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
Local industry owners are threatened by the agreement and they feared its implementation. The agreement also puts professionals and academics at risk,” MP Gunawardana said while commencing yesterday’s adjournment debate on the SLSFTA.
He went on to question the validity of the agreement, charging that the FTA was defunct.
“There has been no Cabinet approval regarding the signing of the agreement. There was only a Cabinet memorandum. Parliament has not given its approval to the agreement either and thus it violates the Constitution. If there is no approval from Parliament there is no validity to the agreement.”
Furthermore, MP Gunawardana said that the Government had failed to hold discussions with the relevant parties regarding the SLSFTA.
“When a country introduces new changes to the trade policies, they hold lengthy discussions and take years to proceed. With whom did you hold discussions?” MP Gunawardena asked, adding that Sri Lanka had also violated international trade agreements by signing the SLSFTA.
In contrast, OppositionLeader TNA MP R. Sampanthan urged the Government to implement the SLSFTA as soon as possible to move the country towards further development.
He noted the significant economic advancements Singapore had made to surpass Sri Lanka.
“It is not a time to check the quality of the teeth of a horse which was gifted by someone. Singapore does not need an FTA with us. It is we who need an FTA with Singapore,” the Opposition leader said.
Identifying five principles that helped Singapore achieve its economic advancements, namely meritocracy, ethnic harmony, a clean government, rule of law and social equity, MP Sampanthan said that Sri Lanka had gone in reverse as it had not adhered to these principals.
In addition, the Opposition leader inquired as to why the Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement had not been signed.
“You cannot go on like this. You cannot turn a blind eye to the development taking place in other countries. We cannot move backwards. We should start to co-operate with other countries.”