Pact traps
Posted on June 14th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

“Above all, it has to take action to ensure that the current administration and future governments will not be able to enter into agreements with foreigners at the expense of the national interest. New laws are needed to make it mandatory for vital agreements to be presented Parliament before being inked. Better late than never!”

A top US official is reported to have said that the US expects future governments of Sri Lanka to honour the agreements the current administration has entered with it. This, we reckon, is a warning or even a veiled threat, couched in diplomatese, to those who have taken exception to the heavily lop-sided agreements—the ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), which is to be signed. The US has told its critics, in no uncertain terms, that they had better stop entertaining the idea of abrogating these pacts.

Sri Lankan politicians are notorious for selling their souls to the devil. They are only concerned about short-term political gains or pecuniary benefits. They would not scruple even to cheat their own mothers if there is money in it for them. They don’t give a tinker’s cuss about selling state assets to foreigners or entering into agreements which are unfavourable to this country.

Leaders of the previous dispensation, driven by their yen for yuan, gave the Chinese free rein while wrapping themselves in the flag; they antagonized other world powers, which are currently getting what they want by helping the yahapalana leaders stay in power.

China got the army headquarters land and permission from the Rajapaksa government to reclaim land from the sea for the Port City project. The yahapalana politicians who opposed those questionable deals and came to power, pledging to liberate the country from the clutches of the Chinese, gave China the Hambantota Port on a platter. Now, they have handed over 49% of shares of the Colombo Port East Container Terminal to India and Japan, backed by the US. The agreements they have signed with the US are detrimental to the interests of this country, which won’t ever be able to extricate itself from what may be termed pact traps which are as dangerous as debt traps, which the US accuses China of having laid for the developing world to further its geo-strategic interests.

The government is only the controlling apparatus of the state, and those who are in power temporarily have no right to commit the country to harmful pacts at their whims and fancies. All foreign agreements must be properly studied and presented to Parliament before decisions thereon are taken. Else, at this rate, the unscrupulous politicians we are burdened with will sell this country outright to foreign powers for a song.

President Sirisena revealed, following his abortive bid to dislodge the incumbent government, last year, that the envoys of some powerful nations had overstepped their diplomatic limits to make interventions on behalf of the beleaguered UNF politicians, who made a comeback with their help. It may be argued that the controversial agreements at issue represent a quid pro quo.

Most of the problems besetting the country anent questionable agreements with the world powers boil down to the bungling on the part of successive governments which have either antagonised world powers or got too close to them, unnecessarily. No government has cared to get its foreign policy right for the last several decades.

The problem is not that the US is doing what is good for it. All countries always do so save this land like no other, and the US cannot be faulted for that. The problem is that Sri Lankan leaders are also doing what is good for the US—for obvious reasons!

The Opposition, especially the SLPP, has rightly condemned the controversial pacts the incumbent administration has signed with the US, Japan and India. But mere rhetoric won’t do. The Opposition has to assess the situation realistically and work out a strategy to help the country manoeuvre out of this difficult situation without getting hurt. Above all, it has to take action to ensure that the current administration and future governments will not be able to enter into agreements with foreigners at the expense of the national interest. New laws are needed to make it mandatory for vital agreements to be presented Parliament before being inked. Better late than never!

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=news-section&page=news-section&code_title=55

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