THE POHOTTUWA GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA Part 2 C8J
Posted on November 15th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

This essay, which is the final essay of this set, summarizes the   reactions to the three agreements discussed, namely, ACSA, SOFA and MCC. All three agreements are with the United States of America  and all three were prepared by USA, In USA to benefit the USA. Of the three agreements, ACSA is already signed. SOFA and Millennium Challenge Compact are yet to be signed.    

If we sign these Agreements”, which are formal treaties,   not    ‘Agreements’ at all, we shall lose our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, said critics.  USA will make Sri Lanka a military base and the whole country will become a colony. With our small armed forces Sri Lanka will not be able to get rid of the US troops if they wish to stay on in the country.

US control of Sri Lanka has become urgent since US may have to vacate its military base in Diego Garcia. International Court of Justice has ruled that the occupation of Chagos Islands by USA is illegal and that Chagos must be handed back to Mauritius ‘as rapidly as possible.’ Chagos Islands are home to the strategic US military base of Diego Garcia.  If Chargos Islands goes back to Mauritius in accordance with the UN ruling then US will need an alternative base, observed analysts.  That will be Sri Lanka.

A high profile agreement, between the US and Sri Lanka Parliament   was signed in September 2016 in Washington. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Chairman, House Democracy Partnership of the U.S. House of Representatives J.Roskam signed the agreement on Sept 14, 2016 on behalf of Sri Lanka and the US, respectively. This agreement, it is known, has a bearing   on ACSA, SOFA and MCC.  However, we are not told the contents of this agreement said critics.

 In addition to ACSA, SOFA and MCC, US wants two new Acts of Parliament pushed through fast. They are 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. The public will need to be on alert because once these laws are passed there is no possibility of judicial review, under the Constitution, warned Lasanda Kurukulasuriya.

The public, specially the intelligentsia are worried. The three US agreements are seen as  a major intrusion into the country’s sovereignty   It looks as though we are about to go into our fourth bout of foreign rule, this time under the United States of America, they said. They do not like this idea at all.   They wish to prevent it. We must look into the legality and validity of these agreements.

It was pointed out that ACSA is already signed. Sri Lanka must now accept this and respect the decision. Sri Lanka has no intention of accepting it. The public want ACSA revoked. ACSA will lead to a US Logistics hub in Sri Lanka, providing supplied and services at sea critics said.

Using ACSA an US aircraft carrier could to dock into Trincomalee under ACSA and USA could use it as a floating base for its military activity. USA army can come into Sri Lanka in   any ‘unforeseen situation’. The 2017 agreement, unlike the 2007 one, has annexures which list by name, the various US military units which can come into Sri Lanka. 

Though ACSA is said to be ‘reciprocal’, it is weighted heavily in favor of the US, since Sri Lanka army does not engage in military adventures abroad, said critics.  Analysts also wanted to know whether in the USA, the ACSA had the approval of two-thirds of the US Senate, in accordance with regulations. If it did not, what is its status in international law?

Apologists said that the 2017 ACSA had less number of pages than the ACSA signed in 2007. that the new ACSA signed had only five pages. Critics replied You don’t measure the harmfulness of an agreement by the number of pages, but on the content.”

Wimal Weerawansa had tabled the 2007 ACSA Agreement in Parliament. It has only eight pagesand no annexures. The recent ACSA document has 83 pages with more than 50 annexures.”I have a copy of it. I also have with me the Sinhala version forwarded to the Cabinet. That contains only the primary section”, Weerawansa said.”

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Admiral Wijegunaratne when asked by the media, about ACSA, said, I refused to say yes to ACSA when I was Commander of the Navy, because the navy could not agree to certain matters.” 

. MCC is still pending under the Pohottu government. Pohottu government is toying with the MCC and the discussion on these Agreements continues after Pohottu came in. The intelligentsia wants MCC agreement to go before Parliament. Under the Sri Lanka Constitution, ( dualist) the MCC draft , requires it to be submitted to and enacted by the Parliament (MCC Article 7, Section7.1), observed Palitha Kohona. One can detect the influence of the US lawyers and their thinking in the MCC draft.

During Yahapalana rule the intelligentsia objected to the manner in which the agreements were negotiated.  Critics complained that the Agreements   are known only to one or two pro-American Cabinet ministers who then push the matter through Cabinet. The public loudly objected to the secrecy involved.

It is outrageous that plans involving such drastic changes are not made available for public debate. The secrecy surrounding them shows that the government knows the Agreement will be unpopular, observed Lasanda Kurukulasuriya.”

Were ACSA, SOFA and MCC discussed in Cabinet and in Parliament, by the parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committees handling foreign and defense issues, they asked.  If not, why not.

ACSA has not being presented to the Cabinet, Parliament and the people, they said. There was no government statement explaining the contents of ACSA, nor was it tabled in Parliament, they complained. In 2019, critics wanted to know why even after two years ACSA was not tabled in Parliament.

Agreements such as ACSA should be approved by Parliament, said critics. Parliament should have a role in discussing such agreements because they affect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country.  (continued)

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