Sri Lanka’s President Saturday announced he will not allow his government to conclude a proposed military deal that would allow US troops free access to the island’s ports.
“I will not allow any agreement that undermines our independence and sovereignty,” Sirisena told a public rally in the island’s south. “Several agreements currently being discussed are detrimental to our country.”
Maithripala Sirisena said he was opposed to the draft Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that the two countries are negotiating to further strengthen their military ties.
““I will not allow the SOFA that seeks to betray the nation. Some foreign forces want to make Sri Lanka one of their bases. I will not allow them to come into the country and challenge our sovereignty,” said Sirisena.
The SOFA seeks to ensure reciprocal access to port facilities and allow freer entry to military personnel and their contractors.
The port in Hambantota straddles the world’s busiest east-west shipping route and also gives a strategic foothold to China in a region long dominated by India.
Sirisena has also said that there will be no bilateral agreements “against Sri Lanka’s national interest” as long as he was in office. His term ends in January.
Sirisena however did not name the powers he accused of trying to gain a military foothold in his Indian Ocean island republic of 21 million people.
The US had stopped arms sales to Sri Lanka during the height of the island’s Tamil separatist war that ended in 2009. The global power has also been highly critical of the human rights record of the former government of strongman president, Mahinda Rajapakse.