Sri Lanka’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrema has rejected a media report which said that an agreement has been reached without Cabinet approval or the knowledge of the Foreign Affairs ministry to hire a United States lobbying firm.
Minister Samarawickrema issuing a statement has said that the article under Sunday Times headline, ‘Malik hires another US firm to lobby for Sri Lanka’ is inaccurate, full of falsehoods and misleading, according to the state-owned Independent Television Network.
The Sunday Times article said the minister has engaged the US lobbying firm Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg (ST&R) to educate officials on a non-existent peace process, increase economic ties and market access, ColomboPage online newspaper reported.
Contradicting the newspaper report, the minister has said that a Cabinet paper disclosing the complete details of the proposals received from two US firms were submitted to the Cabinet.
He says that the approval was received from the Cabinet to engage Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg as the government’s lobbyist for a specific period at a fee of US$ 30,000 per month.
Since the Minister of Foreign Affairs is a member of the Cabinet and his Secretary is also privy to the decision to the Cabinet, the Foreign Ministry would have been aware of the issue, the minister has pointed out.
The Sunday Times report quoting a foreign ministry official said the ministry was unaware of minister Samarawickrema’s arrangement.
“We were not informed of an agreement with ST&Rs. We have not been told. At least as a matter of courtesy, we should have been informed,” the official was quoted as saying.
According to Samarawickrema’s statement the Sri Lanka embassy in Washington received the proposals and after evaluating it, the ambassador had recommended the engagement with the company, ST&R.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Matters (CCEM) is reported to have given the nod for hiring ST&R.
“Sunday Times newspaper should have had the courtesy to find the facts from the ministry before publishing an incorrect article under the banner headline,” the minister has said in the statement.
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