SL leaders and US interests
Posted on July 2nd, 2019

N. A. DE S. AMARATUNGA Courtesy The Island

There is a perceived threat of a major intrusion into the country’s sovereignty and the country being turned into a military base for the US, as part of its strategy for dominance in the Indian Ocean. Several agreements with the US and supportive parliamentary acts are said to be in the pipeline hidden from the public eye. The proposed agreements are (1) Status of Forces Agreement, (2) Acquisition and Cross Service Agreement and (3) Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. The first would enable the US to deploy their armed forces in any part of our country with the freedom of not coming under the law of the country. The second envisages the building of an economic corridor from Colombo to Trincomalee and the third agreement would establish a corporation to utilize the land that comes under the economic corridor. Going hand in hand with these agreements are the following proposed parliamentary acts; the Land Special Provisions Act and the State Land Bank Act. These acts of parliament would facilitate acquisition of land by foreign investors and the formation of corporations for the development of these lands.

Obviously, the primary interest of the US is in the military sphere, and the secondary interest is to tighten the grip it has on the country with a strong economic involvement making us dependent on them. Our land would be made available to their armed forces and also to their investors. The economic corridor could eventually be American owned and would connect the two ports also, Colombo and Trincomalee for military and economic purposes. The US and also our prime minister seem to be in a great hurry to get our government to enter into these agreements as there is an election around. The US has indicated that they want future governments to honour these agreements, probably aiming to take an insurance against a possible defeat of this government at the forthcoming elections. The legality of these agreements and their future validity have to be seriously looked at in relation to the relative powers of the executive and the legislature, given their far reaching and obvious adverse impact on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and land ownership.

The PM seems to be under obligation to the US for helping him to come to power and would not attempt to stop them from doing what they want. The President, going by his past performance, though he had raised objections, cannot be relied upon to demonstrate a firm and consistent stand on these vital issues. His handling of the bond scam, Hambantota Port take over, Easter Sunday attacks, and his latest position on the 19th Amendment are just a few glaring instances characteristic of a dithering nature. Prime Minister, on the other hand, apart from his apparent hurry to get it over with, has a blemished past regarding inimical agreements. The infamous Peace Agreement drafted by Erich Solheim that he signed in 2002 comes to mind. At that time there was an executive president elected by the people with full powers. All international and also national agreements have to be signed by the person who represents the people’s sovereignty. There was no provision in the 1978 Constitution for delegation of authority to sanction agreements. Yet the PM without consulting the president signed the Peace Agreement which gave parity of status to the LTTE vis-a-vis the government. The legality of PM signing the Peace Agreement in 2002 is, therefore, questionable.

Thus, at a crucial time of existential importance we are between the devil and the deep blue sea with a vulture hovering above. The President tends to waver and the PM has a tendency to act in breach of the Constitution. The PM in 2002 was doing what the west asked him to do and he is doing the same in 2019. The President in 2002 was constitutionally more powerful than the incumbent in 2019 and was able to get rid of the government. The present president hasn’t got that power as was shown in October 2018. Despite the 19th Amendment, the president may have the necessary powers to abrogate agreements entered into without his approval, but whether he would do it may depend on the factors that influence his political future and his final decision in that regard. If he aligns with the pro-US camp he may go along with the decision to enter into the agreements and, on the other hand, if he returns to the national camp he may not approve the signing of the agreements. Notwithstanding these considerations the PM, like in the past and in secret, may sign the agreement. And as it was in 2002 the agreements would be deemed to have been duly entered into and implementation may proceed by the use of force if necessary as hinted by the US. Stakes are high for both the PM and the US. Only hope is the dissenting voice within the UNP against these agreements, which at present is only a whimper.

For the US, Sri Lanka has assumed greater geopolitical importance in view of the proposed Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, and the vital role Sri Lanka may be called upon to play in that project. US Secre tary of State has stated in no uncertain terms that they would not hesitate to militarily intervene to protect their interests anywhere in the world, including sea routes for trade. Further their global economic policy is to make countries dependent on them rather than improve the quality of life in those countries. Thus they want to get a grip on Sri Lanka’s economy and make us dependent on them, which would make it easy to convert Sri Lanka into a US military base for all practical purposes. The latter is crucial for them for they may soon lose the right to have their base in Diego Garcia.

The proposed economic corridor from Colombo to Trincomalee envisages the construction of five metropolitan centres connected by super highways covering several districts, and involving a large swath of land between the two cities. All activities in this corridor will be controlled by the US owned corporations. The above mentioned parliamentary acts relating to land will provide for the acquisition of land for this purpose. US armed forces will have the freedom of movement anywhere in the country and will have diplomatic immunity. Therefore, what is proposed is virtually a military take over and total control of the economy, the one facilitating the other.

What is important to the citizens of Sri Lanka, at a time when an election is looming, is the question whether we have the political leadership needed to resist the pressure applied by the US. Today the President is not very strong either constitutionally or politically. His political future is uncertain and he is trying hard to find a foothold to launch his next move aimed at salvaging some political space. PM desperately needs US assistance to remain in power. Large scale foreign involvement in the forthcoming elections is a distinct possibility; it happened at the last election and would happen with greater force at the coming elections. Neither the US nor China would like to be mere observers and leave it to our people to decide on their future rulers, they both have huge investments in areas of geopolitical importance. China has the Hambantota Port strategically positioned in relation to its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, and the US and India would like to prevent its progress. India may acquire Mattala Airport and it too would be interested in our elections. Our people who have a reputation for resisting foreign invasions will have to unite, forget their political affiliations and rise up against foreign hegemony, their local lackeys, and decide on their future. Our very existence as a free and independent nation would depend on their decision.

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