The Prime Minister’s office in a letter to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has told there is ‘no SOFA between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Government of the USA’. This is contradictory to what the U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz said earlier last week when she called SOFA the VFA and acknowledged negotiations are underway ‘to facilitate cooperation’.
Writing to CCC Chairman Dr. Hans Wijesuriya concerning his letter to the PM, asking for increased transparency with regard to agreements with the U.S.A. to which includes the SOFA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the PM’s office informed them that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was ‘perturbed’ by the ignorance on the contents of SOFA and MCC.
Referring to the queries forwarded by the CCC on SOFA, Prime Minister says there is no SOFA between the U.S and Sri Lankan governments and adds no such proposal has been forwarded by the line Ministry – the Defense Ministry – on such a matter.
The Sunday Times in their political column however reported today that the line Minister- the Defense Ministry – is not being kept in the loop regarding developments on the SOFA and that it is only being done now after the President demanded for approvals to be run through him.
According to the ST column, until then the Foreign Ministry was exclusively handling the negotiations, although the discussions should have rightfully taken place with the Defense Ministry.
So the Prime Minister’s office is technically correct in saying SOFA has not been discussed by the Defense Ministry yet – either in an honest admission of the lack of information or a blatant attempt at misleading the audiences yet again.
The PM’s office may not be aware of the negotiations but the U.S. Ambassador told the public early last week that negotiations are on and gave the same old reassurance of how the agreement will not affect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka although all information currently points otherwise.
Meanwhile, at an event yesterday, President Sirisena pledged he would not sign any foreign agreement that brings harmful impacts – in a clear reference to SOFA. Last week the State Minister of Defense too told media that any defense agreement will be signed only upon consultation with the President and that no agreement will go through without his signature – a clear development and an improvement since last week, when Sirisena as the Defense Minister was completely left in the dark.