US Ambassador’s response to MCC and Compact Agreements
Posted on July 24th, 2019

JANAKI CHANDRARATNA Courtesy The Island

It was indeed a breadth of fresh air to read the American Ambassador’s clarifications on US-Sri Lanka Agreements in The Island newspaper – 18 July 2019.

The Ambassador, Alaina Teplitz, needs to be commended for understanding the Sri Lankan concerns and articulating her Govt’s assertions in a professional manner. This is in contrast to our Govt. responses, which were basically either denials of the existence of such agreements or a dismissal of the concerns, as bogie constructs of people/political parties trying to defame the govt.

The Ambassador’s assurance that ‘Sri Lanka would retain all sovereign rights to approve or deny entry or exit of U.S. personnel, vessels, and aircraft into Sri Lanka’s territory and territorial waters/airspace’, as reported in the said article is indeed comforting and assuring to Sri Lankans. The Ambassador mentioned a new treaty in the making, Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), to address the status of US military and civilian employees of the Defense Department, who may have to enter Sri Lanka for various Sri Lankan Govt. requested services.

Whilst Sri Lanka has a dire need for infra structure development and perhaps for a better land management information system, the need for a military cooperation that can impact our sovereignty status, needs further clarification. It stands to reason that we needed all the military/logistic assistance we could get during the terrorist war in 2007. Such an overwhelming necessity is however not apparent in current times. Perhaps some may argue that the ISIS attack on Sri Lankan churches on 21 April 2019 presents a need for some kind of external military support. There are also the claims that the April attacks were a local manifestation rather than an external imposition. Whatever the source of the attacks, our armed forces were able to restore normalcy, with the intelligence received and the assistance of the domestic Muslim community. Perhaps our military aid requirement is still in the region of intelligence, as in 2007, rather than having foreign troops within our shores.

The Govt. has asserted that Americans have signed ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreements) with many countries, and it should not be a concern for Sri Lanka to be a part of a global response. If indeed ACSA is a common agreement there bounds to be an issue for the Americans as to whom they would support in case of a conflict between two or more of ACSA partners. There is also the more serious risk that American adversaries could target American interests in Sri Lanka in times of a war, annihilating our fair land.

The Ambassador has also confirmed that US Govt. ‘will not buy, sell, or own any actual land – or take control of any actual land’, under MCC Agreements’. The question however arises whether the US Govt. is able to ensure multi-nationals will not grab our crown land or the land for development projects, from rural folk to whom ownership is currently being granted. I do not think any rational minded Sri Lankan would want Sri Lanka to be like Thailand, where rural folk were forced out to the cities after the loss of their land to development projects; and village women in particular, had to resort to prostitution to sustain their existence. The experiences of these countries need to taken into consideration when developing Agreements for so called developments.

It should be noted that currently Sri Lanka is moving towards a Presidential election and thereafter a Parliamentary election within the next 12 months, if there are no mysterious divergences, due to so called ‘unforeseen circumstances’. In this setting, many Sri Lankans would prefer to have US Agreements revisited with the next regime, without having to rush them through the current system. I am confident that a win-win arrangement can be negotiated with adequate transparency, if these Agreements are revisited after the national elections, as some of the economic development activities suggested are of value to the country.

JANAKI CHANDRARATNA

One Response to “US Ambassador’s response to MCC and Compact Agreements”

  1. aloy Says:

    We would like to have some technology transfer agreements with universities like Berkeley which has been at the forefront of research on microarchitecture of the computer and mobile processors. In fact one of their initiatives the RISC V project (which is open source and a disruptive technology) might change the way the computers and mobiles work in the near future and is license free. Currently the ARM of UK has built a $ 75 Billion industry with their secretive technology, but their monopoly will soon end. We must get the US president’s help to make this transfer (or even a collaboration like what India has done) a reality.
    If that happens I do not mind our government invite him to visit our country.

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