Ultra-right party of Sri Lanka joins with ultra-left party to campaign against the US defense pacts

Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka appears to be a battleground of a cold war between US and China super powers. Political sources say two small-time political parties have been hired by China for a campaign against the defense treaties of Sri Lanka with the US.

Acquisition and Cross-Service Agreement (ACSA) was signed in 2007 between Sri Lanka and the United States during the time the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna aka National Freedom Front (NFF) which is one party that has published this set of posters was a coalition member of the government under President Mahinda Rajapakse. The agreement was extended in 2017 by the current government.

ACSA paves access for the US military to enter Sri Lankan territory and bring in basic requirements including ammunition. Now the NFF is in the opposition and wants the agreement abolished.

Meanwhile, US has proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) of which the content is yet to be revealed. However, it is alleged that SOFA seeks exemption for visiting US personnel from criminal jurisdiction under Sri Lankan law, while in Sri Lanka. Another such alleged clause is one that would give effect to the agreement through an ‘exchange of notes.’

SOFA is currently a Doesy under negotiation that seeks to update a 1995 agreement between the US and Sri Lanka which also carried an immunity clause.However, Sri Lanka passed Diplomatic Privileges Act No. 9 in 1996 under which granting of any diplomatic privileges and immunity needs to be published in a gazette and tabled in parliament.

However, the campaign against the two agreements with the US might be triggered with China backing, political sources say. While the United National Party (UNP) of the ruling alliance is maintaining close relations with the US, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) the party led by President Maithripala Sirisena is closely tagged with China.

President Sirisena visited China from May 14 to 16 while his home country had subjected to communal violence against Muslims after the Islam extremists launched a series of attacks taking more than 250 lives. The President held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

The two political parties have proven through this poster campaign launched together that they have secretly joined hands to campaign against ACSA and SOFA. The posters appear to have been designed, printed and pasted by one service. The two parties have split from the moderate leftist People’s Liberation Front (JVP). Interestingly, NFF is ultr-right wing Sinhala Buddhist nationalists while the other party Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) is ultra-leftist.