By S.S. Selvanayagam
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court yesterday decided that it would hear three Fundamental Rights Petitions challenging the signing of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact, Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) on 31 January.
The bench comprised justices Buwaneka Aluvihara, Lalith Dehideniya, Murdu N.B. Fernando, S. Thurairaja and Gamini Amarasekera.
The petitions challenge the intended signing of the MCC agreement to obtain a $ 480 million grant.
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 Angulugalle Siri Jinanda Thero, Bengamuwe Nalaka Anunayake and Prof. Madegoda Abhayathissa Thero. The third Petition was filed by Attorney-at-law Dharshana Weraduwage.
Sanjeeva Jayawardena PC with Ravindranath Dabare, Lakmini Warushawitharana, Niranjan Arulpragasam, Rukshan Senadhera, Charitha Rupasinghe, Milhan Mohamed and Ranmalee Meepagala, instructed by Asoka Miwunhella, appeared for the petitioners.
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 the matter to be mentioned on 13 December, to ascertain whether the respondents had received notices and appraised the current position of the agreements.
Counsel Sanjeeva Jayawardena PC reserved his right to move with a Motion if there was an imminent threat of signing the agreements. The Petitioners stated that the contents of the purported agreements were shrouded in secrecy and there was no transparency at all.
They seek Court to call for the purported MCC and SOFA agreements or the final drafts thereof that are intended to be signed, as well as the ACSA agreement that had been purportedly executed.
They state that the matters highlighted in their application erode the territorial integrity of the country and thus impinges on the sovereignty vested in the people. They state that the purported agreements vest an inordinate degree of benefits to the US 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 future generations. Given the US’s past 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 in order to secure what would in effect be the paramount interests of the US. They state that the US would 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 was a danger that Sri Lanka would become consumed in the onslaught of this process and be drawn into a dynamic in which it would find itself very much the weaker party.
They state that this agreement is a fine example of the bartering of State sovereignty in exchange for a superpower’s alleged development project.
They state that the US Government and many other nations, including Japan, Iraq, Iran, Germany and South Korea, had entered into a SOFA agreement and had faced many sovereign conflicts, earning the ire of their citizens.
They asked Court to declare that the purported Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, Status of Forces Agreement or the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement had to be approved by Parliament, as required by Article 157 of the Constitution, if it was to be pursued.
They are seeking another declaration that the purported agreements have no force or effect in the 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 or suspending these agreements until the final hearing and determination of their application.
The Petitioners cited the Attorney General, Defence Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Cabinet Members and others as respondents.