Trinco won’t be part of US missile shield–FM

Rejecting a JVP claim that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government would allow a US missile base in Trincomalee, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagam yesterday said that Sri Lanka would never allow any act detrimental to its neighbours to take place on her soil.

Answering nine questions raised by JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in relation to the recent visit of some members of the US Army’s Pacific Command to the East, the Minister said that Sri Lanka had always abided by the policies of Non Alignment Movement and would never allow the use of its harbours or land for foreign nations to threaten regional peace.

He said there was absolutely no truth in the JVP claim that a US Missile Defence System would be established in Trincomalee.

MP Dissanayake making a special statement in Parliament yesterday accused the Government of facilitating the US to set up a US Missile Defence System Mechanism as envisaged by a CIA sponsored plan titled the ‘Brahmaputra Plan.’ A delegation of the US Pacific Command was in the country to assess the ground situation. The delegation comprised of Major General Thomas L. Conant of the United States Pacific Command, Lieutenant General C. Pettigrew, South Asia Country Director and Lieutenant Commander Lawrence A. Smith III, Defence Army Attaché for Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the US Embassy in Colombo. "For the last 40 years the US has been planning to set up one of its military hubs in the country. In 1978 they tried to set up a missile defence system in Trincomalee but failed. Again in 1985 they planned to set up a base near Trincomalee harbour. This too failed in the face of people’s opposition. "The Brahmaputra Plan of the CIA had earmarked Trincomalee as one of its bases to control the entire South Asian region. Recently after President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power, Sri Lanka entered into a defence pact with the US. This pact allows the US to use this country for its military operations elsewhere in the region. When we view the recent visit of US Pacific Command’s delegation, we suspect that the government is colluding with the US."

The MP demanded the Government to give a full detailed report to Parliament of the visit led by Maj Gen. Conant, whether they arrived on an invitation from the Sri Lankan Government, what was their task plan in Sri Lanka, was there any connection between their visit and the US-Lanka defence Pact and why the delegation had met with Eastern Provincial Council’s Chief Minister S. Chandrakanthan.

Minister Bogollagama in his answer said that the delegation arrived here on January 13 and left for Maldives on a single day visit on 14th and had already left the country on January 18. They had participated in a USAID programme sponsored project to rehabilitate and reconstruct the East liberated from the LTTE. "The delegation had participated in a foundation stone laying ceremony for two schools and a hospital," the minister said.

"Do you want us to believe that they came all the way from US to lay foundation stones for schools? Then why military officials instead of some state department officials?" MP Dissanayake asked.

Minister Bogollagama: "There is a problem with your line of thinking. You wake up from the bed in the morning and go to bed in night thinking only of conspiracies. There is no conspiracy here. It was a goodwill mission of a delegation. We have such delegation exchange programmes. There is no defence pact between Sri Lanka and USA. What we entered was the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the US. The US has similar agreements with 89 other countries in the world. They met with Chief Minister Pillaiyan and discussed the rehabilitation programmes and their progress."

The Minister said that US had been in the forefront among the countries which supported Sri Lanka’s battle against terrorism. "Do not forget that US banned the LTTE in 1997. The US had openly declined to talk with the LTTE. It has always maintained that the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka must be protected."

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