What is Yahapalana Government cooking
Posted on July 1st, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Behind the tightly closed doors, a few select politicians are busy finalising two highly controversial agreements with the US. These secretive deals are carefully kept out of Parliament and the Cabinet. These Parliamentarians and Ministers too seem quite content to be left in the dark. There is speculation that Maithripala Sirisena himself might not be aware of the true contents of these agreements. 

This is not something Tissa Vitharana appears to believe, though, for he had questioned the release of Gnanasara Thera who has a reputation of inciting violence against the Muslims.


These agreements that the Yahapalana Government is cooking with the US are: (1) SOFA – Status of Forces Agreement (2) ACSA – Acquisition & Cross Service Agreement (3) MCCC – Millennium Challenge Co-operation Compact.


Already, the Yahapalana Government had agreed to the ACSA, as far back as in 2017. Yet, up to date, the terms and conditions of this agreement are not in the public domain. Even though the other two agreements are yet to be agreed, these are rumoured to be in its final stages. It is also being noted that certain new laws are being introduced, with one already in effect to clear the obstacles in attaining the goals of these agreements.


These agreements, by the contents of the available documents related to the subject, are clearly a threat to our sovereignty. This threat is compounded as these do not seem to have any exit clauses. Thus, once these contracts are agreed upon, they will remain irreversible.

SOFA

From the original document of the SOFA, that the American High Commission in Colombo sent to the Yahapalana Government they helped instal, the following contentious points warrants further scrutiny by the people of our country: (1) The persons included in the SOFA Agreement are classified as USSD Persons. This will include armed personnel from the US Forces as well as civil servants from the US Department of Defence. It has been estimated that this group constitutes nearly 2.86 million persons.


(2) It has been stipulated in the Agreement that these persons should be granted diplomatic immunity.


(3) While performing their official duties, they are to be allowed to be armed and in uniform.


(4) They are to be exempted from tax.


(5) Both these persons classified as USSD Persons and the US Ministry of Defence would be allowed to,


a) Use any personal property


b) Without being subject to any inspection, license, any form of restrictions or duty, be able to import, export and use any equipment, supplies, material, technology and services and also any training as per their activities according to the Agreement.


(6) To be allowed for any US vessel, air craft or vehicle to enter Sri Lankan territory without being subject to any restrictions or inspection.


(7) Licenses issued by the US Government as well as any Federal State to be recognised. Similar immunity should also be granted to the US contractors.  


(8) To be allowed to operate their telecommunications system.


(9) For this Agreement to be binding, the one and only requirement would be for a Minister of the Yahapalana Government to sign a letter of willingness.


 It must be noted that the US Government had entered Status of Forces Agreement with at least 100 countries. Most of these countries, however, have Defence or Security Arrangements with the US. Sri Lanka does not have such an agreement or arrangement with the US Government. Even when, such agreements are in existence, it still does not guarantee a fair deal for the host country.


Okinawa Island


The classic example is the prevailing situation in Okinawa, Japan. Japan enjoys strong and cordial relations with the US. Yet, successive Japanese Governments have been helpless and unable to resolve the growing social and criminal issues the people in the Okinawa Island undergo because of the US military base and unruly behaviour of the US military personnel.


For years, there has been growing protest by the Islanders against this US military base, which up to date had fallen into stoically deaf ears. It is therefore deeply ironic that the US officials firmly believe that the Sri Lankan military must reduce its military presence within Sri Lanka.


Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement


Whenever the attention turns to the Acquisition & Cross Servicing Agreement, the Yahapalana Government and its proponents are quick to point out that the first ACSA was signed during the Rajapaksa Administration in 2007. However, that is not a satisfactory answer because there are glaring differences between the Agreement that was signed by the Rajapaksa Administration in 2007 and what the Yahapalana Government signed in 2017.


Some of the key features in the ACSA Agreement signed by the Rajapaksa Administration on 5th March 2007 are: (1) The Agreement consisted of only seven pages without any annexure. The ACSA that was signed by the Yahapalana Government consists of over 80 pages with an additional 50 annexure. However, as the contents are yet to be released to the public domain, one can only guess as to what might be included in these 80 pages plus 50 annexure. Therefore, clearly the Agreement signed in 2007 is not the same that was signed in 2017.  


(2) Had an exit clause by giving a 180 day notice.


(3) Was valid only for 10 years. It was only upon its expiry that the Yahapalana Government renewed it.


(4) Only food supplies, petroleum and transport services could be exchanged and not any form of lethal weaponry.


This Agreement signed at the height of the war against terrorism proved to be extremely valuable, especially to the Sri Lanka Navy who received from their US counterparts, intelligence of LTTE ships and floating armouries.  


It is interesting that this Agreement was first tabled by the US Government in 2002. Then also, the Premier was Ranil Wickremesinghe and the President was Chandrika Kumaratunga but the two did not see eye to eye just as at present with Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena. However, India did not give a chance to the Wickremesinghe led Government to consider this Agreement for they saw this as allowing the US to have a free military base in its domain.


 The fact, that five years later the Rajapaksa Administration was able to go ahead with this Agreement further attests to their ability to balance various powers to the advantage of our country. India too must have had faith in the Rajapaksa Administration to allow this Agreement to come into force.


Millennium Challenge Cooperation Compact


The Millennium Challenge Cooperation Compact was an institution foundered by the US Congress in 2004. Though it is said to be independent of the US Government, it is managed by top officials of the US Government. The purpose of this institution is said to be to provide development financial assistance, especially in infrastructure projects.


Within four days of the Easter Sunday Massacres, the Financial Minister Mangala Samaraweera was ecstatic that the MCCC had offered USD 460 million, in aid, to build an economic corridor from the Colombo Port to the Trincomalee Port.


 However, this constitutes 28 per cent of our territory. Furthermore, this territory will be subject to American Law and no longer be under the Sri Lankan Law. 

Adding salt to this contention is MCCC’s history of not honouring their word.


They made a similar financial pledge in 2006-7. However, up to date, this pledge had not budged beyond a verbal assurance. Indeed, given that they had made extravagant financial pledges to over 50 countries which the US Congress is yet to approve, it will not be surprising if they cannot deliver. 

Thus, there is always the possibility that we may give up more than a quarter of our land mass to a company that cannot honour their end of the Agreement. Even if they could, the question remains whether there is a price good enough for us to hand over our sovereignty, country and freedom.

ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com

One Response to “What is Yahapalana Government cooking”

  1. samurai Says:

    This man ‘Christie’ is notorious for throwing red herrings into a serious conversation. When he cannot agree with the contents of article instead of expressing his views with valid arguments he sometime even hurls personal insults at the writer. He once called Senaka Weeraratne an ‘Indian sucker’ because he did not agree with what Senaka wrote.

    To me Christie is an internet troll
    https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-internet-trolling-3485891

    Following is what a well-known contributor to Lanka Web wrote to me:

    “I cannot forward Lanka Web links to any decent person because of Christie’s deliberate Red Herring type comments. He is saying the same thing over and over again (“Indian colonial parasites, Indian colonial parasites, Indian colonial parasites…”) with a view to spoiling the reading of an article. The name Christie looks a pseudonym where the writer with no responsibility to anyone can destroy the goodness contained in an article.
    Lankaweb must better regulate comments and not allow hecklers.”

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