THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 C8h
Posted on November 15th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

This essay lists four set of objections raised against the three US treaties, by four separate organizations in Sri Lanka. They are objecting from different perspectives and they all show opposition to US rule in Sri Lanka.

In July 2019, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna held a news conference to protest against the two agreements. It was observed at this conference that there have been many problems wherever SOFA is signed by the US with other countries. An army base will come up in any country that signs a SOFA. We have a trained, experienced and world-recognized armed force which could meet any situation. We do not have any need to get military assistance from any country, said SLPP.

In July 2019 the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) requested a meeting, with the President and Prime Minister to clarify certain concerns they had regarding these agreements. BASL also met Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss the ACSA and the proposed SOFA and the Land Bill. They discussed action they could jointly take to protest over the ACSA and urge the government not to go ahead with the SOFA. BASL President Indatissa warned that if the SOFA was signed, Sri Lanka would become a target of anti-American terrorists.

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Prime Minister in July 2019. The Chamber said, The Ceylon Chamber expresses its concern with regard to the increasing levels of speculation among its Membership and society at large on the consequences surrounding the proposed SOFA and MCC.

The Chamber wants the government to clarify the exact position with regard to the current status of these two Agreements. What is the current status of the negotiations and/or execution of these agreements . The Chamber wants the government to be transparent with respect to these agreements and their consequences. The Chamber also wanted the agreements to be approved by Parliament. This will ensure that the national interest is protected.

In July 2020 LSSP leader Prof. Tissa Vitarana issued a statement where he strongly opposed SOFA, MCC and ACSA agreements with the US.”If these agreements become a reality, the USA can make Sri Lanka a military base and the whole country a colony. If we agree to these terms we shall lose our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

Therefore the Government should not under any circumstances sign the MCC agreement.  This agreement has the unusual requirement that some of the conditions have to be implemented prior to signing the agreement, and it appears that these conditions are already being implemented. These should all be stopped and reversed forthwith in the interest of our country and our people.

ACSA and SOFA agreements are military agreements that are thrust on our countries by the USA. The Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement (ACSA) is an agreement which allows American troops coming from outside to make use of our airports, harbors and military facilities and also engage in joint maneuvers with the Sri Lankan forces. They can also engage in bilateral and multilateral military exercises. 

 The Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) has been signed periodically with over 80 countries throughout the world by the USA. These can vary from country to country and from time to time.

 In response to a question asked by the Mahanayaka of the Malwatte Chapter on 24th May 2019, referring to the ongoing discussion between the UNP and USA Governments on the SOFA agreement, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ms. Teplitz, stated that it was “to allow US forces to tour the country and to conduct combined security operations”.

 But in fact an unlimited number of US troops will be allowed to enter Sri Lanka wearing uniform with guns in hand and accompanied by heavy armaments at any time they wish to come. They will be given all diplomatic privileges and whatever they bring cannot be examined by Sri Lankan officials.

 They have to be given access to enter any institution or premises that they desire to enter at any time. If they commit any crime they cannot be tried by Sri Lankan Courts, but only by Courts in the USA. They are not liable to pay any taxes or duty on anything they import or export. The American troops will be free to move to any part of the country, at any time without prior permission concluded Vitarana.

USA RESPONSE

USA was so concerned about the virulent opposition to its Agreements that its Ambassador conducted a Face book live chat in July 2019 to counter misinformation and disinformation that has been propagated about US-Sri Lanka cooperation. The Ambassador emphasized that when the US extends support and assistance to the people of Sri Lanka, it is only at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government.

The Ambassador responded to public questions on the US-Sri Lanka partnership agreements, ACSA, MCC and SOFA. The Ambassador said that the MCC Compact would not be establishing an ‘economic corridor’ between Colombo and Trincomalee.   USA will not buy, sell, or own any actual land under the Compact, either.

SOFA,   now re-branded as Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) addresses the status of US military and civilian employees of the US Department of Defense, who may be temporarily present in Sri Lanka for exercises or official duty at the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka, said the Ambassador. The title ‘VFA” shows that US has no intention to build a military base or establish a permanent military presence in Sri Lanka, she said.

 The US Forces would only come to Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government and would then depart. No troops – even under a VFA – would enter Sri Lanka without proper documentation and prior approval. 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,   assured the Ambassador.

Regarding immunity of US defense personnel from Sri Lanka law, the Ambassador said that the two countries would come to an advance agreement on how to deal with such incidents should they arise. However, the draft VFA is still under negotiation and has not been concluded yet, she stated. US   said  in October that it will suspend talks on  SOFA  and take it up again after the Presidential election of November 2019. ( Continued)

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