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No talks so far on SOFA – AG

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A State Counsel who appeared on behalf of the Attorney General made these remarks when the four Fundamental Rights petitions filed against the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) were taken up before the Supreme Court three-judge Bench headed by Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare.

On March 22, the Attorney General informed Court that the Government has taken a decision not to proceed with the controversial MCC Compact.

The Court was further informed that the MCC Board had also decided to discontinue the proposed MCC development assistance grant to Sri Lanka.

Four petitions including Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), Attorney-at-Law Darshana Weraduwage and Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatte had filed these Fundamental Rights petitions naming the President, Finance Minister and Cabinet of Ministers as respondents.

In its petition, the GMOA had sought an interim order staying all approvals and decisions issued by anyone in respect of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact, Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and, Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA). Five petitioners representing the GMOA including its President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya filed this petition naming 38 respondents including the Finance Minister and Cabinet of Ministers.

President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena appearing for the GMOA told the court that dangerous consequences could arise if the Government proceeded with the SOFA agreement.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided to lay by the petitions, while reserving petitioners’ rights to resume hearings, if necessary.

The petitioners sought a declaration that the petitioner’s Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 12 (1) and 14(1)(h) of the Constitution, has been infringed and continue to be infringed by the Cabinet of Ministers when approving the execution of the MCC Compact with the MCC of the United States of America. The petitioners state that if the purported MCC is executed in Sri Lanka, it will undoubtedly erode and impinge on the fundamental tenet of Sovereignty of the Country, which the Constitution expressly provides to be “Free, Sovereign and Independent”.

The Petitioners state that the purported Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) was entered into in the year 2007, between the Department of Defence of United States of America and the Defence Ministry – Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and it was valid for only 10 years, thereafter, upon the expiry of the said agreement, Sri Lankan Government entered into fresh ACSA Agreement with 50 annexures in 2017. The Original Agreement was a very simple

agreement that consisted of only 8 pages, subsequently in 2017, it was converted into an extensive, exhaustive and extensive agreement, which contains more than 80 pages, the petitioners stated.

The petitioners state that the said new purported ACSA agreement is highly in favour of the United States of America and its Citizens, and accordingly, is against the national interest of Sri Lanka. President’s Counsel Sanjeewa Jayawardena appeared for the GMOA while Senior Counsel Canishka Witharana appeared for petitioner Premanath C. Dolawatte. Counsel Darshana Weraduwage appeared for the petitioner.

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