The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) statute (formerly known as `NATO Mutual Support Act`) finalised on March 5, 2007 would simplify exchanges of logistic support, supplies, and services. The US has ACSA with 89 other countries.
A senior government official rejected criticism by the UNP and JVP and concerns expressed by the LSSP, a constituent of the SLFP-led ruling coalition.
The LSSP`s Politburo last week resolved that the ACSA signed by Defence Secretary Colonel (retd) Gotabhaya Rajapakse and US Ambassador Robert O. Blake should be published.
In fact, the US initiated talks with Sri Lanka in this regard during Ranil Wickremesinghe`s tenure as the Prime Minister. Although Wickremesinghe`s UNF administration accepted the US proposal, it never materialized. According to a highly placed official of the UNF administration, this was never placed before the Cabinet of Ministers.
The UNF also negotiated the acquisition of US Coast Guard Cutter Courageous for US$ 1.5 million. The vessel subsequently commissioned as SLNS Samudra is the second Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) acquired by Sri Lanka, the first being SLNSSayura bought from India at a cost of US$ 19 million. Sri Lanka acquired seven Trinity
Marine Class Fast Attack Craft built at Equitable Shipyard, New Orleans.
SLNS Samudra spearheaded an attack on an LTTE vessel carrying a large consignment of armaments last September off Kalmunai coast.
Referring to a statement attributed to UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella at a press conference on Tuesday, government sources emphasized that the pact was a key milestone in the US-Sri Lanka relationship. Kiriella accused the government of signing a secret deal with the US similar to the secret deal it allegedly clinched with the LTTE. He vowed to reveal the details of the agreement during the next session adding that the party would seek a debate on this. Parliament meets on Tuesday (20).
The sources said that during Wickremesinghe`s tenure Sri Lanka reached agreement with the US not to surrender each other`s citizens to the International Criminal Court. During President Chandrika Kumratunga`s time, the US included Sri Lanka in Joint/Combined Exercise Training Programme (JECT) managed by the Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC).
The sources pointed out that the finalisation of the ACSA took place in the backdrop of a sharp improvement in relations between India and the US in recent years. The US and India see each other as strategic and economic partners in the emerging Asian order, the sources said. Unfortunately some Sri Lankan political parties did not see the reality. Some conveniently forget US backing for the ongoing military effort against the LTTE, particularly an unprecedented crackdown on LTTE arms procurement agents last year, the sources said.
Although US Ambassador Ashley Wills in December 2002 declared that the US may seek Sri Lankan facilities to refuel ships and aircraft and related facilities in the event of an attack on Iraq, the US never used Sri Lankan bases.
The sources emphasized that the ACSA does not, in any way commit a country to any military action. US and Sri Lankan forces maintain a robust relationship with periodic joint exercises involving elite fighting units.
Acquisition of Israeli-built Kfirs, in service with the SLAF since 1996 is subject to US approval. Since then the US has provided critical assistance and a case in point is the ongoing process to enhance the firepower of the security forces.