- Court informed of decision when FR petitions on agreements taken up
By S. S. Selvanayagam
Attorney General yesterday informed the Supreme Court that the new Government has decided to revisit and review the impugned three proposed agreements with the US.
The petition challenging the signing of agreements on MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact), SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) and ACSA (Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement) yesterday came up before a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court.
The Bench comprised Justices Buwaneka Aluvihare, Lalith Dehideniya, Murdu N.B. Fernando, Prasanna S. Jayawardena and Gamini Amarasekera.
The petitions impugned the intended signing of the agreement with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to obtain a $480 million grant.
Additional Solicitor General Farzana Jameel, appearing for the Attorney General, informed the Court that these agreements will not be signed until the same are revisited and reviewed, and that the Court will be first informed of the new Government’s position.
President’s Counsel Sanjeeva Jayawardena in response submitted that the case was filed on an extremely urgent basis, as the 1st Respondent Mangala Samaraweera was about to execute these agreements with the US Government, and if that happens, there would be a serious threat to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
He added that however, in view of the present Government’s decision to revisit and review these agreements, the petitioners are satisfied for the present moment that there is no immediate threat of executing the impugned agreements.
He further submitted that it was not the MCC agreement which was cause for concern, which seemed to be merely an outright grant to the Sri Lanka Government, but that the real reason for the grant is the execution of the “very dangerous” SOFA which allows US military personnel access and movement within Sri Lanka without the oversight of a Sri Lankan authority.
The Court fixed the matter to be heard on 25 March.
One petition was filed by Dr. P.S.M Anuruddha Bandara Padeniya, Dr. Haritha Punu Aluthge, Dr. A. K.A Samantha Kumarasiri Ananda, Dr. H.N. Deshika Soysa and the Government Medical Officers’ Association.
The other petition was filed by Angulagalle Siri Jinanda Thero, Bengamuwe Nalaka Anunayake Thero and Madegoda Abhayathissa Thero.
The third petition was filed by attorney-at-law Dharshana Weraduwage.
Sanjeeva Jayawardena PC appeared with Ravindranath Dabare, Lakmini Warushawitharana, Niranjan Arulpragasam, Rukshan Senadhera, Charitha Rupasinghe, Milhan Mohamed and Ranmalee Meepagala instructed by Asoka Miwunhella.
Additional Solicitor General Farzana Jameel with State Counsel Sureka Ahmed appeared for the Attorney General.
The Court directed the Petitioners in the first two petitions to re-issue notices and fixed December 13 to ascertain whether Respondents have received notices and to appraise the current position of the agreements.
Counsel Sanjeeva Jayawardena PC reserved his right to move the motion if there was an imminent threat of signing the agreements. The petitioners impugn the contents of the said agreements, charging that they are shrouded in secrecy and without transparency.
They seek the court to call for the purported MCC and SOFA Agreements and/or the final drafts thereof that are intended to be signed, as well as the ACSA Agreement that had been purportedly executed.
They state the matters impugned in their Application erodes on the territorial integrity of the country and thus, impinges on the Sovereignty vested in the people
They state that the purported agreements vest an overwhelmingly inordinate degree of benefits to the United States of America and its military personnel, which is seriously prejudicial to the national interest as well as the interest of the entire citizenry, including the rights of the future generations.
Given the historical advent of the US experience in third world countries, through their expansive and highly penetrative investment campaigns, there is a serious threat to the denial of Sri Lankan interests and of the interests of her people, in order to secure what would in effect be the paramount interests of United States of America, they state...
They state that the US juggernaut will obviously hold powers in order to secure its own interests, at the expense of the interests of a third world nation like Sri Lanka and there is a danger without over dramatising the issue, of Sri Lanka becoming subsumed and consumed in the onslaught of this process and being lobotomised and drawn into a dynamic in which it will find itself, very much the weaker party.
They state that this agreement is a fine example of the bartering of state sovereignty in exchange of a superpower’s alleged ‘development’ project.
They state that the Government of United states and many other Nations in the world including Japan, Iraq, Iran, Germany, South Korea etc. has entered into SOFA agreement, and has faced many sovereign conflicts and has been despised by the citizens of such country, and has raised serious concerns from time to time.
They ask the court to declare that the purported Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact and/or; Status of Forces Agreement and/or; the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement necessarily has to be approved by Parliament, as required by Article 157 of the Constitution, if it is to be pursued with.
They are seeking another Declaration e that the purported Agreements has no force or effect in law, if and until it is presented before and approved by Parliament, as required by Article 157 of the Constitution.
They are asking for an interim order staying and/or suspending these Agreements until the final hearing and determination of their Application.
Petitioners cited Attorney General, Defence Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Prime. Ranil Wickramasinghe, Minister of Foreign Affairs Thilak Marapana. Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera Members of the Cabinet of Ministers and others as respondents.