Storm over Sri Lankan deal with India

The Opposition and sections of professional organisations here have kicked up a storm over the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement between India and the island nation.

Calling the pact a fresh variant of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which was aborted earlier, the Joint Opposition, a coalition of seven parties and groups owing allegiance to former President Mahinda Rajapakasa, said the deal had to be abandoned due to “lack of public support.”

Professional bodies representing doctors, engineers and lawyers took out a rally against the proposed pact a few weeks back.

Critics have said the deal would pave the way for Indian professionals and semi-skilled and unskilled persons to “flood” Sri Lanka’s labour market.

The government’s response has also been forceful. A week back, President Maithripala Sirisena said the ruling dispensation’s rivals were spreading “false rumours.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday clarified that he was not for the reintroduction of the CEPA and the services sector would not be thrown open. At the same time, he accused the critics of seeking to sabotage employment opportunities for young Sri Lankans, by opposing the latest initiative.

Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha De Silva told The Hindu on Sunday that “what we are discussing [with India] is about the framework for a bilateral cooperation. Only after reaching an understanding on this matter, we will take up the content of the agreement.”

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