The National Joint Committee (NJC) yesterday urged the government to ensure that a regulatory and quality assurance mechanism would be in place before signing yet another bilateral agreement with India.
Addressing the Media at the National Library yesterday, Executive Committee Member of the NJC, Dr Lalithasiri Gunaruwan said Sri Lanka was unprepared and incapable of preventing an eventual flow of low quality service providers from India that would enter the country once the doors were thrown opened to them with the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA). "We already are aware that the Indo- Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ILFTA) signed in 1998 and initiated in 2000 has not been favourable to Sri Lanka," he charged, stating that the main purpose of ILFTA had been to provide duty free concessions to a wide range of products traded between the two countries.
He pointed out that India had left little room for Sri Lanka to benefit from the ILFTA by imposing several stipulations and problems of Non Tariff Barriers, port restrictions, inter provincial border tariffs in India which had a harmful effect on Sri Lankan exports to India.
"What is the assurance the situation will not be similar if ETCA is signed. India has stringent rules preventing foreign nationals from working there. So will Sri Lankans have access to the Indian market for service provision?"
"However, with ETCA we will leave room for Indian nationals in similar professions to practice in Sri Lanka. The government should take steps to form a mechanism to assess their level of educational qualification to do so," he said.
Ex Co-Member of NJC, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera warned that Sri Lanka would become ‘Indianised’ if ETCA was signed without a safety net in place. India had never been a close friend of Sri Lanka’s, he said. "We must not forget our history," he said, adding that the British rule had brought in Indian nationals to serve in the estate sector. And now the country and its government had to deal with that problem. It was India that backed terrorism and destabilised Sri Lanka, violated Sri Lankan airspace and even sent in its troops in the late 1980s," he said.
Admiral Weerasekera said Indian fishing trawlers crossed the International Maritime Boundary to plunder Sri Lanka’s fish. The Indian Navy did not care to put an end to that illegal practice, he said.
The Rear Admiral said that Sri Lanka lost Rs. 5,500 million worth fishing resources a month due to poaching by Indian fishers.