MCC Sri Lanka – a Govt with no State land to tax

Location, Location, Location” is reason why Sri Lanka is important and it is the reason why nations adopt numerous approaches to ensure stakes in potentially any corner of the island all of which bring immeasurable value to them. Why can’t Sri Lankan leaders & citizens understand the country’s geopolitical potential as much as external parties/players? It is in the inability to understand and maximize this potential to Sri Lanka’s benefit that has enabled external parties to use cunning methods to wriggle their way into tapping what ideally should be a strategic wealth asset to Sri Lanka & held by Sri Lankans.

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With global focus shifted to Asia, it is imperative that Sri Lankans come to terms with how global players will turn to Sri Lanka for geopolitical, military & trade perspectives. It is in the light of this understand that we can be better positioned to understand the developments since the end of LTTE in May 2009, the US pivot to Asia, US Air-Sea Battle doctrine, China’s announcement of Belt & Road Initiative in 2013 prior to which in 2010 Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port was launched are in some ways connected to the successive UNHRC Resolutions drafted by US & supported by its allies against Sri Lanka to weaken and diplomatically pressurize Sri Lanka into opening its systems for the perusal of ‘foreigners’ who had bigger plans up their sleeves.

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This culminated in 2015 regime change, placing a puppet government in power, psychologically hypnotizing citizens into being mesmerized by yahapalana good governance until faux pas came to such appalling levels that even the regime changers had no damage control for. However, while the nation was kept busy dealing with countless faux pas perhaps purposely planted to keep the nation busy & diverted, strategic changes were taking place.

Now we come to a point where we can view these changes from a perspective of what benefits Sri Lanka or what benefits those funding the changes. It is left to the reader to decide.

However, this is being written from the point of view of the country & the citizens and future generations.

US says it is giving $480m as a non-refundable grant. WHY?

US says MCC has no conditions, if so why produce a Constraints Analysis which names

Lack of Assess to Land
Policy Uncertainty
Inadequate overland transport as root causes for investment impediments while also highlighting ‘shortage of skills in science, technology, engineering & math(STEM) as another impediment which means it is highly likely that foreigners will be employed in MCC investment ‘economic corridor’ and elsewhere too.
If MCC is coming to help Sri Lanka’s poor why does MCC want access to land?

MCC Constraints Analysis makes clear that MCC wants to buy land for ‘investment purposes’.

How do we know what MCC conditions are?

MCC official Steve Lovic on 25 September 2018 in Temple Trees handed out a MCC document which had a list of very interesting details that would open our eyes to understanding what MCC is really about.

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mcc5MCC document given in 2018, creates a Millennium Challenge Authority

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Unbelievable that in a sovereign country a government ministry is placed subordinate a US MCC authority board. Where have you heard of a government Ministry below a corporate body?

Sri Lankans have access to land – who doesn’t have access? It is the foreigners

When MCC speaks about lack access to land it is MCC that is seeking land for investment.

When MCC speaks about policy uncertainty, it is MCC that is seeking legislative changes advantageous to MCC investors

When MCC speaks about inadequate overland transport, it is for MCC investors.

So for this non-refundable $480m GRANT to be given, the GOSL has to first make the following changes

(if STATE LAND IS NOT PRIVATIZED MCC COMPACT-Economic Corridor CANNOT take place)

MCC Condition – Issue land grants to people – giving them all rights of private ownership (this nullifies Sri Lanka’s control over its territory exercised by the Centre)

Preparation of parcel fabric map / cadastral map is being done

MCC Condition – Legislative change 1 – Land Special Provisions Bill (drafted by US) repeal State Lands Ordinances of 1947 & removes powers of the President over Land & confers those powers to Provinces (13a – Land Powers given & US/Allies will be buying land directly from the Provinces)

Shockingly this Act is ONLY VALID for 7 years.

Which means that the idea behind privatizing 84% of state land in Sri Lanka, is to within 7 years enable the sale of State land held by grantees to foreign investors.

The obvious plan via the Land Special Provisions Bill was to remove obstacle where 84% of state land was held by farmers. The only way to do that was to give outright ownership to grantees of state land by privatizing state land. Once grantee land owners had title deeds to land they are on their own.

The Land Special Provisions Bill Section 29 claims that state land privatized can be mortgaged to any financial institution or any purchaser (that means even foreigners can buy land as the cap to prevent foreigners owning land was removed after this government came into power in 2015)

MCC Condition – Legislative change 2 – Inventory of State Land – Land Bank Bill (drafted by US)

State Land Bank Act is passed by legal draftsman & signed by Attorney General and copied to Charitha Ratwatte & attorney Ms Bimba Tilakaratne (legal advisor to PM Ranil) but has not been presented YET to Cabinet or Parliament.

The preamble to this Act is to compile all state land owned or vested with public institutions (land used by schools, libraries, armed forces, police, nature parks etc) and enable these public institutions to sell. There is no criteria/restrictions or scope for such sale even.

Section 33 of this Act aspires to repeal land reform law of 1972 that limits ownership to 50 acres.

Vesting powers all go to the State Land Bank.

State Land Bank can even be sued by corporations – so where is Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

The State Land Bank organization board is to comprise of 19 Additional Secretaries and 5 members of the Constitutional Council (you can imagine what we are in store for)

Section 28 of the Act gives a virtual carte blanche to the Minister to dispose of land simply by a letter. By vesting powers to the State Land Bank/Minister Sri Lanka can even be sued by corporations – so where is Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

Privatizing of 84% of State Land via Land Special Provisions Bill
Loophole penetrated is Land issued by President is conclusive proof of absolute title.

MCC Condition – Registration of grants into the title system

MCC Condition – Conversion of deeds to title system

MCC Condition – Establish a Land Policy Body under Ministry of Lands

The MCC 2018 document also gives a map of geographic areas of focus for MCC Land Investment. Again you must ask yourself – were we not told that this $480m was simply a grant to help Sri Lanka’s poor, then what is this MCC land investment?

Is it not clear that MCC is actually planning to buy our land and buy our land cheap by getting the government to re-survey our land and that is why a new valuation system is being designed with foreign inputs & advice.

Those that are saying why are people making a fuss over the ‘gift’ of $480m seem to totally ignore the loans that the GOSL is taking to give US firms to iron out areas that would quicken the process for US investors to land & buy over our land & even cheap labor as ILO are already redrafting our labor laws.

How many know that GOSL has given US firm Trimble Navigation to prepare land survey maps & create a database of 3.6m parcels of state owned land? Trimble is doing what Survey Dept should be doing and the dangers of Sri Lanka signing the US Tropic Forest Act which was rejected in 2004 is highly likely to occur. GOSL has taken a loan of $154m to pay Trimble to survey our land and 400 public surveyors & 200 additional private surveyors with crews will all be serving under Trimble. Trimble would take control of Sri Lanka’s electronic land register & details of lands – isn’t this a threat to National Security when a private company is given access to all land details of a sovereign country & the government takes a loan to pay them for it? This $154m is not part of the $480m grant!

Now please remove your pro-foreign lens and imagine what all these changes will mean to Sri Lanka & its citizens?

Why is US asking for changes to our administrative systems – privatizing state land, giving title deeds, removing cap on foreign ownership of land – what is their bigger plan?

What happens when all State land is privatized?

Political power over land passes from Centre to the provinces.

Isn’t this what TNA & LTTE had been fighting & demanding for 30 years?

By now you should have understood that Land Special Provisions Act & Land Bank Act are integral parts of the MCC conditions

All this means – the GOSL has privatized all state land, given title deeds to people living on state land as grantees by an Act that is valid for only 7 years while allowing title deed holders to sell their land to anyone including foreigners the intent of which is for foreigners/foreign investors to buy land within 7 years. While the Act also allows foreigners to even sue the country.

This happened in Peru where secret land deals with a foreign company resulted in its cancellation & foreign company took issue with international tribunal resulting in Peruvians paying $24m for a deal done in secret by their government – https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/trade-agreements-pre-empt-dissent-an-interview-with-aftinets-dr-patricia-ranald/?utm_source=Mondaq&utm_medium=syndication&utm_campaign=View-Original

However, there are 2 impediments –

First is the FR case filed in the Supreme Court against the Land Special Provisions Bill which prevents MCC signing and any MCC signing must be regarded as a contempt of court.

Second is the Supreme Court Judgement (Bulankulame vs the State) famously known as the Eppawela Case where the Court determined that Sri Lanka’s Constitution secures the fundamental rights of even our unborn generations to our land. The right to private property is not a human right.

1 million deeds have already been distributed by President Sirisena-Prime Minister Ranil especially aligned to those living along this ‘economic corridor’ – against these two judgements how valid are these deeds?

MCC economic corridor cannot be created without privatizing state land to enable private owners to sell and selling state land used by schools/libraries/forces etc. Both scenarios will create incremental displacement of people and public utilized buildings.

Now let’s ask some questions?

What happens if farmers who now have private title deeds mortgage their land to a financial institution & the bank takes over their land for non-payment?
What happens if farmers sell their land because foreigners offer a price they cannot refuse?
What if private land title owners end up selling their land & have no livelihood or even place to live?
How can a government survive when a government forfeits all State land & loses its ability to collect revenue from taxes? How can a government survive without taxes & revenue?
What is the jurisdiction of a government & politicians over land that belongs to private citizens or foreigners? These are incremental scenarios likely to happen
Is there any use in having a Parliament or a Government? Will Politicians be jobless?

Now let’s look at other scenarios

If MCC goes through, the other agreements ACSA & SOFA will only strengthen US/transnational corporate presence in Sri Lanka – US military/civil contractors armed, with weapons, bringing unchecked equipment without paying any duties can enter Sri Lanka & go anywhere.
Palaly international airport means that India has been given air capacity to bring any military hardware from air into Sri Lanka.
TNA 13 demands and the partnership with the NDF candidate means that there is more than room for another unilateral declaration of independence – with a corridor and rail preventing Sri Lankan Armed Forces using ground-naval-air to defend itself, the Eelam gift is given on paper but under Indo-US control and Tamils will realize too late they have sold Sri Lanka and themselves. https://www.tamilguardian.com/sites/default/files/File/Tamil%20orgs/1.Translation%20of%20the%20Five%20Party%20Document-%20Issued%20by%20Jaffna%20Unniversity%20Stduents%20-%2014.10.2019.pdf

What powers will our National Army & Police have to carry out their national duties? Not much!
Economic Electric Rail Corridor vests US 1.2million acres for 200 years dividing Sri Lanka into 2 and taking part of Sacred Anuradhapura as well. Will Sri Lankans need visa to go & pray?
Then we come to the East terrain – the Batticoloa university is also part of the MCC map where US envoy is opening buildings in the very area that the Easter Sunday suicide bombers resided and paid for by the US Pacific Command funds? Why? This is linked to the Caliphate in Sri Lanka and we cannot ignore who jihadi terrorists best friend is and it is a factor that the Muslims of Sri Lanka cannot ignore too.
Sadly, the minorities of Sri Lanka have been ready proxies to weaken Sri Lanka.

Tamils & LTTE terrorists were used for 30 years to weaken Sri Lanka and now simultaneously a proxy political Tamil alliance together with proxy Muslim militant/political synergy is now being used to further weaken Sri Lanka tapping into the weaknesses of the political system and the ignorance of the masses.

We can only hope that people can see the larger picture. All of the 3 foreign agreements must be taken together with the legislative changes that have taken place by a weak and spineless government put into the saddle by the parties aspiring to grab Sri Lanka geopolitically, economically & militarily. Will this end Sri Lanka’s 2500 proud history and heritage will be seen in days to come?

Shenali D Waduge

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