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* Sri Lankan government spends millions for lobbying to improve relations with the US - report
Sun, Jul 27, 2014, 10:21 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

July 27, Colombo: Sri Lankan government has spent millions of dollars to lobbying firms in the United States to defends its status globally, especially in the U.S., but the relationship with the superpower has soured gradually over the last few years despite the colossal amount spent, a local media report said.

Local newspaper, Ceylon Today reported that the Sri Lankan government has spent over US$ 100 million to four lobbying firms in the U.S. to defend the country.

The government of Sri Lanka last month has added two firms to its presence in Washington, according to Politico Influence news magazine.

The Sri Lankan government in June has signed Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) contracts with three firms - the Madison Group, Beltway Government Strategies and R&R Partners, Inc.

The Madison Group will work on "assisting the Ministry of External Affairs with creating situation awareness of current affairs in Sri Lanka."

The Madison Group is taking US$15,000 (approximately Rs. 2 million) a month in fees for their services, plus expenses and bonuses for performance. The contract with the Madison Group will last through June 2015 with the possibility of renewal.

The country has also signed a contract with Beltway Government Strategies to "Retain and manage firms to engage in government relations activities on behalf of the foreign principal and its interests," according to the FARA contract.

The contracts have been signed by the Office of the Monitoring MP for Ministry of External Affairs Sajin De Vaas Gunawardena.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka has signed a contract with the R&R Partners, Inc. to "develop a plan to raise awareness of the strategic importance of Sri Lanka to the United States."

The plan will include identification of relevant Members of Congress, administration officials, and State Department Officials and the firm will arrange and accompany the Sri Lankan representatives to such meetings and prepare strategic communications for use in the meetings.

Activities contemplated by R&R will be designed to encourage adoption of United States policies which will support the development of Sri Lanka's natural resources and economy and the firm will conduct activities designed to increase awareness of Sri Lanka's importance to the United States.

R&R Partners will provide consultancy services through Beltway Government Strategies for a monthly fee of US$ 35,000 (Rs. 4.5 million) for the duration of the Agreement.

According to public records, the country has two other active FARA accounts with Thompson Advisory Group and the boutique lobbying firm Majority Group.

When questioned the Monitoring MP has told Ceylon Today that the Ministry of External Affairs Not only in the US, but also with other countries in communicating with the current developments in Sri Lanka and addressing issues that are faced by the country.

He has noted that the LTTE front organization is spending over US$ 2.5 million dollars per year only for one company to lobby on their behalf.

"You must also understand that USA works very differently to that of Sri Lanka and the rest of the world. The Executive, the Senate and the Congress are totally detached from each other. Opinions are made; policy is formulated based on the extent of lobbying that is done by interested parties on various issues. In their system Congress and Senate base their decision-making on this. I must admit that Sri Lanka has not been very successful in placing ourselves properly in this context. We cannot try to implement a method as we are used to here, instead we have to follow the practice in the USA. I don't see anything wrong in this. We need to get our message across. Our adversaries basically have caucuses every week on issues pertaining to Sri Lanka. Therefore, whilst we need to counter this we need to also get it across that there is another side of the story a legitimate one. Is there anything wrong in this?" the MP has responded to Ceylon Today.

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