SLFP wants SOFA put on hold till conclusion of 2019 Presidential polls
Posted on July 2nd, 2019

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

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SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera, MP, speaking on behalf of President Maithripala Sirisena, said yesterday that a final decision on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US should be delayed till the conclusion of the 2019 presidential election.

Similarly, the proposed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MMC) agreement, too, should be delayed till after the next presidential election. Jayasekera said.

MP Jayasekera said so in response to a query raised by The Island at the weekly media briefing at SLFP Headquarters on T. B. Jayah Mawatha.

The Island sought the SLFP’s reaction to recent US Embassy statement that the US expected whoever wins the next presidential election to honour agreements entered into by the two countries.

MP Jayasekera said that SOFA and MCC could be put on hold though Sri Lanka was now duty bound to follow ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement).

The SLFPer said that President Sirisena had declared he wouldn’t approve SOFA and MCC under any circumstances.

Jayasekera dealt with several issues, including the ongoing controversy over President Sirisena’s decision to resume judicial executions, ACSA, SOFA and MCC, an agreement between Parliament and the US, the SLFP’s stand on the No Confidence Motion (NCM) moved by the government and President Sirisena’s candidature at 2019 presidential poll.

The MP faulted the UNP for a number agreements successive UNP administrations had entered into such as Voice of America (VOA) station. He recalled the circumstances under which in Feb 2001 the UNP had entered into a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE and co-sponsored Geneva Resolution against the country in Oct 2015. On both occasions Presidents weren’t consulted, MP Jayasekera said.

Commenting on Sri Lanka entering into ACSA in March 2007 during the Rajapaksa administration and the current dispensation extending an expanded version of it recently, MP Jayasekera claimed that President Sirisena wasn’t briefed of the ACSA.

The Island sought an explanation as to why accusations were directed at the UNP with regard to ACSA because it was President Sirisena, in his capacity as the Defence Minister who placed agreement on ACSA before the cabinet and later signed by the then Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, PC.

Jayasekera said that ACSA hadn’t been discussed at the Cabinet and in Parliament. Asked whether the ACSA had been subjected to scrutiny by relevant Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committees (SOC), MP Jayasekera said that SOC system hadn’t been in operation at that time.

The finalisation of ACSA took place over a year before President Sirisena’s UPFA quit the government. However, he is the head of the government.

The Island pointed out that the signing of the Sri Lanka Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) had taken place in Colombo in January 2018 in President Sirisena’s presence. When he was askedwhether President would inquire into the circumstances under which ACSA was entered into, MP Jayasekera said that proposed SOFA was far more dangerous than ACSA. He alleged that the government had not followed specific advice given by President Sirisena in respect of SLSFTA.

When the media pointed out how Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera had recently defended ACSA, SOFA and MCC, Jayasekera said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t join any particular camp.

The MP added that the US push for military agreements with Sri Lanka should be examined against the backdrop of United Nations highest court – International Court of Justice ruling the occupation of Chagos Islands illegal and that it be handed back to Mauritius ‘as rapidly as possible.’Chagos Islands are home to strategic US military base of Diego Garcia, MP Jayasekera pointed out. The SLFPer queried whether the US was looking for alternative bases for re-deployment of forces in case Chargos Islands were returned to Mauritius in accordance with the UN ruling.

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