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Lankan Opposition flays secret deal with US

The UNP slams the Govt for signing Acquisition and Cross Servicing pact with US, reports PK Balachandran.
None | By PK Balachandran
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2007 07:24 PM IST

The opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have attacked the Sri Lankan government for signing the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the United States, saying that there is more to it than meets the eye.

Since ACSA mentions mutual cooperation in peace keeping missions, the JVP's politburo on Tuesday asked whether the agreement would facilitate the induction of an US peace keeping force in the war-torn island.

The JVP is against any foreign peace keeping force being inducted into Sri Lanka.

It had opposed tooth and nail the stationing of an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987-90.

The party's politburo wanted to know from the government whether Sri Lanka was exempted from the "peace keeping" part.

"The government initially said details of the agreement would be revealed to the public, but had kept it under cover so far.

Thus, we urge the government to reveal the complete agreement to the public immediately," a statement from the JVP's politburo said.

Speaking for the UNP, Lakshman Kiriella MP, said that the "Rajapaksa brothers" had signed a "secret deal" with the US.

If the government did not reveal the full contents, he himself would reveal the details in the next session of parliament, he warned.

ACSA, signed by US Ambassador Robert Blake and the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, earlier this month, is meant to give logistical facilities to the military forces of the two countries on a barter or payment basis when they entered each other's territory on peace keeping and other humanitarian missions.

The US Ambassador had made it clear that ACSA expressly banned the transfer of lethal weapons or munitions.

Such a "routine and very modest" agreement had been entered into with 89 other countries, explained Steven Mann, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central and South Asia in the US State Department, when he was in Colombo recently.

However, a vocal section of the Sri Lankan polity believes that the pact opens Sri Lanka's doors to the US military, though these may come initially only on "humanitarian" missions.

It is also pointed out that ACSA is not truly reciprocal in as much as only the US military, being a global power, will be visiting Sri Lanka and looking for logistical support.

It is very unlikely that Sri Lankan forces will be in the US and looking for logistical support there.

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