The Sri Lankan president’s strong opposition to the draft Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) came as the two countries are currently discussing it in an attempt to further strengthen their military ties. Critics say that the deal will allow Washington to press some demands that would impinge on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The US, they say, seeks exemption from licenses and such charges as customs duties and taxes as well as boarding and inspection of its ships and military aircraft within the island country, which is home to some 21 million people.
Furthermore, the US is purportedly asking for authorization for its servicemen to put on uniforms whilst “on duty” in any part of Sri Lanka while carrying arms and radio communications equipment. The Sir Lankan leader also stressed that there would not be bilateral agreements “against Sri Lanka’s national interest” as long as he is in office until January next year.
Back in April last year, Washington announced that it was granting Sri Lanka $39 million to boost maritime security in the island country as China has already developed its strategic hold there, which is a key link in Beijing’s ambitious “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative.
Washington had halted arms sales to Sri Lanka during the height of the island’s Tamil separatist war that concluded in 2009.