Sri Lanka will not sign deals allowing US to build a military base: Wijewardene

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka will not sign an agreement which will allow the United States to build a miliar base in Sri Lanka, State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said.

"The joint opposition and some groups have been saying that we are attempting to sign a secret agreement to allow US military forces to enter this country and set up bases," Non-cabinet Media Minister and State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena said in a statement.

"I deny this. I have given a statement in parliament that we are neither attempting to sign such an agreement with the US government, nor have we signed one," he said.

Joint opposition members such as Wimal Weerawansa as well as the JVP, which have traditionally opposed the US as Marxists, have been opposing the extension of such deals.

Ministers said the agreements were originally signed or letters exchanged before the current administration came to power.

Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce also jumped on the bandwagon this week.

President Maithripala Sirisena told journalists last week that he was opposing the renewal of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States.

Government ministers had told parliament that the agreement will be renewed with some clauses such as those giving immunity to visiting forces removed. 

Wijewardene said no military bases will be allowed to be set up in Sri Lanka.

"Not only the US government, but any other country will not be allowed to set up military bases in Sri Lanka," he said.

"If such an agreement is signed, it will be signed by the President as the Defence Minister or by the Defence Minister under instructions from the Presient," Wijewardena said.

The United National Party (UNP), which Wijewardena is a part of, had come to power in a coalition with President Sirisena and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), but are now estranged over a personality clash with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. (Colombo/Jul04/2019)