The Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a United States Government corporation designed to work with some of the poorest countries in the world, has voted to `deselect` Sri Lanka as a country eligible for MCC funding next year, the Daily Mirror has learnt.
At a December 12 meeting, the Board of Directors of the MCC deselected Sri Lanka, based on the country`s performance on 17 indicators in three areas -- ruling justly, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom -- sources said, adding that the government had been informed of the decision.
Sri Lanka`s deselection implies that it has not demonstrated commitment to policies that promote `political and economic freedom, investments in education and health care, control of corruption, and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law.Sri Lanka was eligible for MCC funding in 2007. After deselection the country will have to re-apply for the Fiscal Year of 2009 if it wishes to be selected for that year. Led by a Chief Executive Officer and overseen by a Board of Directors, MCC is responsible for the stewardship of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which receives funds appropriated by the US Congress every year.
Meanwhile the US Congress is likely this week to agree to slash military aid to Sri Lanka, based on a decision arrived at by the US Senate and the House of Representatives. The US Senate and the House of Representatives has decided to bar all but a small amount of military aid to Sri Lanka next year until the Bush administration certifies that the Sri Lankan government has made certain improvements in its human rights practices.
The bill, however, needs to be approved by the full House and Senate and sent to US President George W. Bush for signature before it takes effect, the Associated Press said in a report yesterday, adding that Congress is expected to pass the bill this week.
The bill would block all but a small amount of military aid for activities including surveillance cooperation between the US and Sri Lankan authorities. Human rights groups have accused the government of committing a wide array of abuses in its fight against Tamil rebels.
The U.S. bill would make any military grants for Sri Lanka dependent on certification by the U.S. secretary of state that Sri Lanka has prosecuted military officials alleged to have recruited child soldiers and carried out extrajudicial executions, provided humanitarian groups and reporters access to Tamil areas of the country and agreed to allow the United Nations to establish a human rights office in the country, the Associated Press report added.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met US Senators recently, in an attempt to urge them to reconsider moves to link military aid with human rights in Sri Lanka.
When contacted by the Daily Mirror for comments on the latest developments, Charu Lata Hogg, South Asia Researcher with the New York based Human Rights Watch, said the Sri Lankan government could not `continue to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community, which is slowly but surely responding to the situation.`
`The government`s obduracy in resisting international help is only going to hurt the government itself. To address the intensifying violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, the government should welcome a United Nations field operation with a strong monitoring mandate at the earliest,` HRW said.