President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are secretly signing defence agreements with the USA turning Sri Lanka into a backyard of the USA says the National Organizer of the JVP Comrade Bimal Ratnayaka MP and emphasized that the vile attempt should be immediately halted.
He said the Prime Minister and the President have taken steps to remove from relevant discussions even the defence experts who point out the destructive nature of such agreements. The agreements have been presented to the cabinet by the President as the Minister of Defense and he should be held directly responsible for the situation added Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka.
He said this at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP yesterday (3rd). The JVP Member of the Western Provincial Council Comrade Lakshman Nipunarachchi too was present.
Speaking further Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka said, “In March 2017 then-Defense Secretary of Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and the US Ambassador signed a defence agreement to provide services by the Sri Lanka government for US military activities. At the time of the signing of the agreement, the JVP opposed the agreement in Parliament as well as outside it. We said the agreement was signed by two US citizens. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was a US citizen at the time he signed the agreement. According to this agreement, the government of Sri Lanka should provide all services needed by US troops if they are involved in any military action in the Asian region. The agreement was signed secretly. The relevant agreement violates the objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement as well as the non-aligned foreign policy Sri Lanka has signed. The USA is a country which is involved in military action at any time anywhere in the world. There are ample examples of countries destroyed by war carried out by the USA. Also, it would not be possible to avoid Sri Lanka being hated by other countries for providing services for the US military.
The agreement signed in 2007 expired on 6th March 2017 after its 10-year term ended. At that moment we of the JVP making a special statement emphasized to the government not to extend the agreement. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe promised in Parliament to inform Parliament if a decision is taken to extend the agreement. However, the US defence agreement has been again secretly extended. How speedily and willingly the government has responded to this could be understood from the letters exchanged. On 23rd February 2017, the US Embassy informs the government of Sri Lanka about the expiry of the agreement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responds the same day expressing the willingness of the government to extend the agreement.
The President of our country always speaks about sovereignty. However, he is the person who presented the cabinet paper on 10th June 2017 to extend the defence agreement. The difference between the agreement signed by Gotabhaya and the one presented by the President is the unavailability of a time frame for the latter one. What is the right Maithri and Ranil have to sign an agreement to supply services for the US military for eternity? Their mandate is for only five years. During the discussions to extend the agreement in 2017 Sri Lanka’s defence experts have pointed out the destructiveness of such an agreement. What President Maithripala Sirisena has done was to remove the relevant expert from the discussions. Subsequently, the agreement was signed. The President yielded before the USA and signed the agreement. The Prime Minister lied to the country.
We have come to know that another agreement other than the one that exists is to be signed. The USA has located military bases all over the world. Also, it has signed a large number of defence agreements with many countries. The new agreement to be signed with Sri Lanka is one of them. We came to know about an agreement called the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). We asked about this in Parliament. As the answer, we were told that an agreement has been signed in 1995 to provide US troops and civilians attached to the United States Department of War various services with diplomatic privileges for military matters. Sri Lanka has signed an agreement composed by the US. It was like placing the thumb mark. However, the country was not aware of it. The agreement had been signed two months into Chandrika Kumaratunga government. The Presidents in our country, despite pledging to defend the country and bragging about their patriotism, sign agreements that give in to the USA. All Presidents – Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena – signed such capitulating agreements. These Presidents have acted according to this agreement for 24 years.
On 28th August 2018, the USA writes asking the government to enforce the defence agreement signed in 1995 and extend it. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has admitted it. When this agreement was signed in 1995 the politics in countries such as Russia, China and India were different. However, currently, there is a trade war going on between the USA and China. According to the agreement in ’95 Asia was a principal war zone. A board of consultants in the US Defense Department has proposed to the US government to reinforce all military agreements that have been signed and make adjustments to them in a manner to give more advantage to the USA. This is why such proposals come up. According to this agreement, US troops and civilians attached to the United States Department of War are to be provided with various services with diplomatic privileges according to the Vienna Convention adopted in 1961. Also, all of them should be allowed to enter Sri Lanka with their identity cards only without passports. This is a proposal to make Sri Lanka a backyard of the USA. Not even the state leader of our country can enter the US with only the identity card. Despite the Commander of our Army is not able to go to the US with only the identity card, an ordinary US soldier would be able to enter Sri Lanka showing his identity card. Also, US troops in uniform can come to Sri Lanka with any weapon. If they commit any crime in Sri Lanka they wouldn’t be dealt with our law but they would be dealt under the US law. The goods and services bought in Sri Lanka by US troops, personnel of the US Department of War and all those engaged in supplying services for the US military will be exempted from taxes. They could import and export anything without bothering about the import and export regulations in Sri Lanka. The ships or aircrafts brought down by the US military cannot be subjected to inspection by Sri Lankan authorities. It is such an agreement that has been signed in 1995.
The USA signs such military agreements with wretched states in the world. Recently, such an agreement was signed with the Maldives. As the JVP, we consider that extending the two agreements would be equal to establishing a US military base in Sri Lanka. Though a military base is not established officially, the government of Sri Lanka is under obligation to provide all the facilities needed to maintain a military base. The agreements compel Sri Lanka to take the side of the US in any war created by it. Any country failing to oblige would be attacked using any excuse.
Hence, we emphasize that governments in Sri Lanka have no authority to sign such defence agreements. Once these agreements are signed revoking them is no easy matter. Sri Lanka becoming a US military base through these agreements cannot be avoided. We demand the government not to sign or extend such capitulating agreements. Also, we call upon the people in the country to rally to oppose such vile moves.”