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‘President should be supported to ensure SL retains its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity’

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When leaving Sri Lanka, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tweeted: “My meetings with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Gunawardena reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s pivotal role as an Indo-Pacific partner. Together we’re committed to advancing our shared interests in the region, including security, and stability.”

Although our biggest fears were on the MCC and SOFA agreements, they were not signed, and the effort to get Sri Lanka to accept the USA positions condemning China were rejected does not appear to have upset Pompeo. His whole argument was that China posed a danger to Sri Lanka and other Asian countries. That it had military ambitions to occupy our land, particularly with regard to countries in South East Asia. That China was giving loans with the ulterior motive of getting us into debt and exploiting that to their advantage. It was therefore necessary for Sri Lanka to join the USA in its effort to wage war on China to achieve a regime change, which the USA has done successfully many times in other countries.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa effectively countered these arguments. He showed that China had helped from the time of the LTTE war and that much of this was as grants and not loans. Even in the matter of loans they were low interest and affordable.

On the question of military dangers and bases, he said Sri Lanka would not under any circumstances allow any foreign power to violate our independence, sovereignty or territorial integrity. The latter statement was particularly a blow to USA’s ambitions in Sri Lanka.

However, both sides agreed on the need to ensure that shipping lanes and the use of the sea should be left open to all. That there should be freedom of movement in the region. That there should be free trade and exchange and that assistance in terms of technology and investment was welcome. But what has appealed most to Pompeo is that no changes have been made in the ACSA Agreement, which had already been signed by the Yahapalanaya Government.

This allows the USA to make use of any airport or harbour in Sri Lanka. Thus, the USA can continue to make use of Katunayake for its big transport planes to bring its heavy armaments and take them across to Trincomalee to be loaded on to their aircraft carriers for use in the whole Indo-Pacific region.

The ACSA agreement also provides for the training of Sri Lankan troops by the USA and their use when necessary. Thus, without actually setting up a USA military base through the ACSA agreement, those needs can be fulfilled.

The commitment of Sri Lanka under the ACSA agreement to be a partner and help in the implementation of the Indo-Pacific arrangement draws Sri Lanka to work with India, Australia, Japan and the USA. Increasingly, the link between India and Sri Lanka will be strengthened and thereby the needs of the USA will be fulfilled.

For instance, the joint military exercises of Sri Lanka with India and the USA will be promoted. In this way, we will become a part of the Indo-Pacific Alliance which is mainly focused against China. It will require great determination to ensure that we are not drawn into a position of conflict with China.

I hope that the SLPP-led Government will be able to face up to this challenge. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already displayed his capability. We must all give him maximum support to ensure that we retain our independence, freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity.



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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