The draft copy of the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ indicates a deep rooted plan by the U.S. to turn Sri Lanka into an American military colony.
The full text of the five page SOFA draft – which the Americans now also call the Visiting Forces Agreement to mislead locals – has been obtained by the Sunday Times and published in full.
The text reveals incriminating details of demands made by the U.S. to accommodate their military forces and the free movement and passage for military personnel, vessels and aircraft in Sri Lankan territory.
It also raises many questions regarding the U.S. agenda for Sri Lanka and raises serious doubts on the assurances given by U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz that a U.S. military base would not be established in the country.
One of the agreement clauses specifically refers to waiving off of regulations or conditions for contracting material, equipment and supplies for services including constructions that are to be ‘furnished and undertaken in Sri Lanka’.
What constructions the American military seek to undertake in Sri Lanka, has not been clarified yet.
Among the other demands that pose serious issues for national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity, is the demand to waive off criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel while in Sri Lanka, free exit and movement within the territory of Sri Lanka and the use of radio spectrum in the country.
The clause to waive off Sri Lankan criminal jurisdiction over US troops on Lankan territory has however been objected to and rejected by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana during the recent U.S – SL partnership dialog. During a debate over the SOFA in Parliament, Minister Lakshman Kiriella also assured it has not been agreed upon and will be amended.
Outspoken Minister Mangala Samaraweera who is named as a party who pushed the SOFA signing forward without consultation of the Defense Ministry, at a press conference last week continues to assure the agreement poses no danger and instead warns the delay to move forward with the signing, could lose economic benefits and major job opportunities for Sri Lanka.
Among others who support SOFA are those who claim of possible loss of economic benefits, by being ‘unwelcoming’ of U.S. troops.
This however is a grossly misleading statement, given that demands made in the draft SOFA call for due payments including landing fees, port fees, pilotage charges, literage, harbour fees, payment of navigation, overflight and terminal charges, taxes, tolls and similar charges at Ports, Airports and other facilities to be waived off.
In cases where they may be settled by the U.S. Department of Defense – the agreement demands the charges be no more than what is paid by the Sri Lankan military.
This is much like the claim made by the U.S. Embassy in 2017 when the USS Nimitz visited Sri Lanka and the Mission claimed the visit would approximately add Rs. 1.5 billion to the Sri Lankan economy.
Fact is not a single U.S. military personnel from the Nimitz aircraft carrier actually came on shore and engaged in ‘local economy boosting’. The troops did not come on shore claiming ‘logistical issues’ while the aircraft carrier was seen in the distant horizon throughout the duration of its visit to Sri Lanka.
The agreement also calls for exemptions from any inspections, licenses, customs duties, taxes and other restrictions or charges assessed within Sri Lanka as well as freedom from boarding and inspection, which means no local law enforcement or military authority including Sri Lanka Navy or Coastguard would have a say in U.S. military vessels or their troops nor be subjected to local laws while in Sri Lankan territory.
Below is the full text of the draft SOFA as published in the Sunday Times:
28TH August 2018
(1) The Embassy of the United States of America presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and has the honour to refer to recent discussions between representatives of our two Governments regarding issues related to United States (U.S) military and civilian personnel identified as members of the U.S Department of Defence, respectively, hereafter referred to collectively as U.S. personnel) and U.S. contractors (defined as non-Sri Lankan companies and firms, and their employees who are not nationals of Sri Lanka, under contract to the U.S. Department of Defence who may be temporarily present in Sri Lanka in connection with ship visits, training, exercises, humanitarian activities, and other activities mutually agreed. Companies and firms, and their employees, not under contract with the U.S. Department of Defence shall not receive any privileges and exempt under this Agreement.
(2) As a result of these discussions, the Embassy proposes that U.S. personnel be accorded the privileges, exemptions, and immunities equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961, that U.S. personnel may enter and exit Sri Lanka with U.S. identification and with collective movement or individual travel orders; that Sri Lanka shall accept as valid all professional licenses issued by United States, its political subdivisions, or States thereof to U.S. Personnel for the provision of services to authorised personnel, and that Sri Lankan authorities shall accept as valid, without a driving test or fee, driving licences or permits issued by the appropriate U.S. authorities to U.S. Personnel for the operation of vehicles. The Embassy further proposes that the U.S. personnel be authorised to wear uniforms while performing official duties and to carry arms while on duty if authorised to do so by their orders.
(3) The Government of Sri Lanka recognizes the particular importance of disciplinary control by U.S. Armed Forces authorities over U.S. personnel and, therefore, authorizes the Government of the United States to exercise criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel while in Sri Lanka.
(4) The Embassy further proposes that the U.S. Department of Defence and U.S. personnel shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar charge assessed within Sri Lanka. The Government of the United States of America and Sri Lanka shall co-operate to take such measures as may be necessary to ensure the security and protection of U.S. personnel property, equipment, records, and official information in Sri Lanka. Such importation, exportation, and use shall be exempt from any inspection, license, other restrictions, customs duties, taxes or any other changes assessed within Sri Lanka.The Governments of the United States of America and Sri Lanka shall co—operate to take such measures as may be necessary to ensure the security and protection of US personnel, property, equipment, records, and official information in Sri Lanka.
(5) The Embassy proposes that vessels and vehicles operated by or, at the time, exclusively for the US. Department of Defence may either, exit, and move freely within the territory of Sri Lanka, and that such vehicles (whether self-propelled or towed) shall be exempt from payment of overland transit tolls. Vessels and aircraft owned or operated by or, at the time, exclusively for the U.S. Department of Defence shall not be subject to the payment of landing fees, or port fees, pilotage charges, lighterage, and harbour dues at facilities owned and operated by the Government of Sri Lanka. Aircraft owned and operated by or, at the time, exclusively for the U.S. Department of Defence shall not be subject to the payment of navigation, overflight, terminal or similar charges when in the territory of Sri Lanka. The U.S. Department of Defence shall pay reasonable charges for services requested and received at rates no less favourable than those paid by the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka. Aircraft and vessels of the U.S. Government shall be free from boarding and inspection.
(6) The Embassy also proposes that the U.S. Department of Defence may contract for any material, supplies, equipment, and services (including construction) to be furnished or undertaken in Sri Lanka without restriction as to choose of contractor, supplier, or person who provides such material and supplies, equipment or services. Such contracts shall be solicited, awarded and administered in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Government of the United States of America. Acquisition of articles and services in Sri Lanka by or on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defence in connection with activities under this Agreement shall not be subject to any taxes or similar charges in
(7) The Embassy further proposes that U.S. contractors shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar charge assessed within Sri Lanka in connection with activities under this Agreement and that such contractors may import into, export out of, and use Sri Lanka any personal property, equipment, supplies, material, technology training, or services in the fulfilment of contracts with the U.S. Department of Defence in connection with activities under this Agreement. Such important, exportation, and use shall be exempt from any licence, or other restrictions, customs duties, taxes, or any other charges assessed within Sri Lanka.
(8) The Embassy proposes that U.S. contractors shall be granted the same treatment as U.S. personnel with respect to professional and driver’s licences.
(9) The Embassy proposes that U.S. personnel shall have freedom of movement and access to and use of mutually agreed transportation, storage, training, and other facilities required in connection with activities under this Agreement.
(10) The Government of Sri Lanka recognizes that it may be necessary for the U.S. Armed Forces to use the radio spectrum. The US Department of Defence shall be allowed to operate its own telecommunication systems (as telecommunication is defined in the 1992 Constitution and Convention of the International Telecommunication Union). This shall include the right to utilize such means and services as required to ensure full ability to operate telecommunication systems. Use of the radio spectrum shall be free of cost to the U.S. Government.
(11) The Embassy proposes that the parties waive any and all claims (other than contractual claims) against each other for damages to, loss of, or destruction of the other’s property or injury or death to personnel of either Party’s armed forces or their civilian personnel arising out of the performance of their official duties in connection with activities under this Agreement. Claims by third parties for damages or loss caused by U.S. personnel shall be resolved by the U.S. Government in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations.
(12) Further, the Embassy proposes that this Agreement, upon its entry into force, shall supersede the Agreement regarding the status of U.S. military personnel and civilian employees of the Department of Defence who may be present in Sri Lanka for exercises or other official duties, effected by exchange of notes at Colombo, February 9 and May 16, 1995, which entered into force May 16, 1995.
(13) Finally, the Embassy proposes further that our two governments, or their designated representatives, may enter into implementing arrangements to carry out the provisions of this Agreement.
(14) If the foregoing is acceptable to the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the Embassy proposes that this note, together with the Ministry’s reply to that effect, shall constitute an agreement between the two Governments, which shall enter into force on the date of the Ministry’s reply.
(15) The Embassy of the United States of America avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka the assurance of its highest consideration.