13 November, 2019

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Defence Secretary Says He Cannot Give A Guarantee There Will Be No US ‘Boots On The Ground’

New Defence Secretary General Shantha Kottegoda today said that he can’t give an assurance to the effect that there will be no ‘American boots on the ground’ but added he hopes it will not come to that.

Shantha Kottegoda

Kottegoda made the statement this morning at his first TV interview, when he was questioned by Bandula Jayasekara on whether Kottegoda, in his capacity as the Defence Secretary is able to assure there would be no U.S. boots on the ground, in response to growing fears in the country about possible arrival of American troops to Sri Lanka.

“I cannot guarantee that there will be no ‘boots on the ground, but I hope it won’t get to that… Anyhow, we have studied and analyzed some of these contentious agreements and due concerns about certain points have been raised with relevant authorities,” he added.

Kottegoda said he believes the upcoming Defence agreement with the US – SOFA/VFA; Status or Visiting Forces Agreement – that has been a subject of contention for the past few months, must be tabled before the Cabinet and then the Parliament, before signing it.

“Then only we can ensure it would be for the betterment of the country and ensure it does not impose any concerns or threats to the territorial integrity of the country,” the new Defense Secretary added.

He went on to state that Sri Lanka does not need foreign armies and although foreign armies maybe equipped with the latest technologies, none can match up to the experience of the Lankan troops.

“Our military is well equipped to take care of our security, Sri Lanka does not need foreign armies – Sri Lanka must be very wary in signing such agreements,” he added.

The SOFA/ VFA between Sri Lanka and the US has been a hot topic of debate for the past few months. The US has been accused of attempting to manipulate Sri Lanka into signing a defence pact that is partial to America as opposed to both parties receiving equal benefits. Critics have also pointed out that the clause demanding diplomatic status to all U.S. military personnel and open navigation and travel routes through the country to all US military vehicles, aircrafts and ships that would visit Sri Lanka, will be a threat to territorial integrity and national security of the country.

Weekly print outlet, the Sunday Times, in their political columns over the past few weeks has also been writing extensively on influence exerted by Americans behind the scenes to ensure the speedy signing of the agreement in secret. Among Sri Lanka Government officials named by the columns as those who push American agendas forward was former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam and former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Colombo Telegraph also learns that former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap was keen on seeing former Foreign Ministry employee Mahishini Colonne – close associate of both Prasad and Mangala – being appointed the Defence Secretary. Mahishini at present holds a position in the Finance Ministry.

The plans however fell through.

Last week UPFA MP and former Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said despite concerns raised by all stakeholders including military commanders, the government is preparing to sign the SOFA during Secretary Mike Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka next week. (By Purnima Ranawaka)

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    American arrival, (if this news turns out to be predicting something about to happen) will be sourer to India than Lankawe. First anti-Indian act of Lankawe is disenfranchising some people perceived as Indians. Then just in few years after, Muslim India separate from India, Lankawe gave special status to Muslims with MMDA. We know then China’s Rubber – Rice pact & taking a gift of BMICH came. Sirimavo special friendship with China put Ceylon in a place India unwillingly had to approach it to act as middle man. India helped on JVP uprising. But Lankawe helped Pakistan to land its Military planes. Mrs. Gandhi donated Katchatheevu. But JR tried his best bring in America & UK. Fearing of one day China, America or UK coming in before it, India directly entered forcing Lankawe to sign a defense pact, by that Lankawe not allowing others in Indian backyard. During naive head Manmohan Singh, Lankawe neglected the pact. Now that pact is virtually dead. But America’s arrival is legally repeals the pact. This may strain the relationship of America and India. But there are many road blocks on the path of India to do anything about that. The mistake is India was too slow to solve Tamils problem and waited until international forces needed to get involved in that. India failed to stop Lankawe using ISIS to teach a lesson for West who was holding the resolution 30/1 as their trump. While Sonia and PM Manmohan Singh were fast asleep, China had footed in an irreversible manner. Like India earlier, West is now fearing waiting too long will force them not just lose Lankawe, but even Indian Ocean.
    Though Lankawe may pretend outside it doesn’t like the deal. But it will be happy inside because this deal will keep China out buying out its land or India capturing its land.

  • 3
    2

    Mike Pompeo’s scheduled Colombo visit next week will be a game changer.

  • 0
    2

    more the better and better to have the Americans as we can become more westernized ha ha

  • 1
    2

    We need American troops here…. in case we are attacked by the Penguins of Madagascar.

  • 3
    0

    So many drama are required because National list MPs are spending millions to promote them.
    A sum of Rs. 6.7 million had been spent for the felicitation ceremony which was conducted in the Nelum Pokuna Theatre on July 31, 2018 when Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine Minister Rajith Senaratne was awarded with the “Suwapathi Kirula” title, the Health Ministry informed Parliament.
    WHO had spent Rs. 1,584,950, Thriposa Limited – Rs. 140,000, National Authority on Tobacco & Alcohol – Rs. 1,000,000, State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation – Rs. 999,975, Laugfs Life Science private company – Rs. 500,000, State Pharmaceutical Corporation – Rs. 1,000,000 and Trade Unions – Rs. 1,541,825

  • 3
    0

    I don’t know for how long Major General Shantha Kottegoda
    will remain Defence Secretary. He is also blundering. How
    can he say he cannot guarantee a foreign country’s troops
    will not be on the ground. Even if that is so, he is letting
    down our own country’s troops. If he does not know to answer
    a question, all he has to say is that he cannot comment. Otherwise
    be bold and say we will fight any foreign troops who want to
    force themselves on our soil. He is nothing more than a weakling
    and that was why Mahinda Rajapaksa as President asked him
    to step down. At the PSC inquiry he sold Mahinda and brother
    Gotabaya. This is the calibre of this man. He was jobless until
    he got the Defence Secretary post. Next time don’t be surprised.
    Sirisena might appoint his driver or valet as Defence Secretary.
    They may be even better sometimes.

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