SOFA is another controversial agreement the US was proposing to the Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement (ACSA) signed first in 2007 and renewed in 2017.
The ACSA provides for joint military cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States and includes logistic support, supplies, services and the use of airports and ports during “unforeseen circumstances”. While the 2007 ACSA permits US military vessels to anchor in Sri Lanka ports on a ‘one-off’ basis, the 2017 ACSA appears to be “open ended”.
In the context of new interventions by the US Administration in having a military foothold in Sri Lanka through its proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).government warned, if SOFA is not entered into, Sri Lanka could lose its exports and employment opportunities in the US.
Thus SOFA is being pushed with economic threats that wholly contradict their own GSP conditions on labour rights, Anton Marcus Joint Secretary of Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union claimed.
This proposed Agreement that is being pushed for signature by US interests, seeks unhindered entry into and presence of its security personnel in Sri Lanka with diplomatic immunity available for administrative and technical staff in the US embassy in Colombo.
The geo-political battle for supremacy in the Indian Ocean between China and the US with Indian backing is no secret battle.
Within that battle for supremacy, we as Sri Lanka is one of the most important and sensitive locations, he added.
Thus, the US hurry in pushing through SOFA while the present government is in crisis and helpless. On the part of the government, it fears an organised labour force, when dealing with US interests, he said.
However Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe told parliament that the SOFA was signed during former President Chandrika Banadaraanaike’s ’s tenure and was implemented with effect from May 16, 1995.
As per the conditions SL agreed to at the time, he said American troops are currently subject to diplomatic immunity since then and our radio frequencies are also already accessible by U.S. forces if necessary.
He further assured no fresh SOFA agreement is in the offing between U.S. and Sri Lankan governments presently.