Spinning around with initials ACSA and SOFA


Pronounced as acronyms those two sets of initials sound to stupid Cassandra as ‘Axe Ah!’ and of course the term for a long lovely chair which you lie on and relax in, pronounced ‘sopaawa’ in the native tongue. Cass watches TV sprawled inelegantly on an old kavichchiya, one on which a grandma perched herself like a little bird and dispensed love, advice and often gifts. Axes too are topics of conversation now – axing trees and axing drug dealers on the gallows and of course axing that poor former IGP for strictly carrying out orders given by No 1.

The mental picture drawn by

certain patriots

The initials much bruited around in the newspapers, TV talk shows, and even in three wheeler conversations were mysterious to Cass. Listening to the strident voices (no voices in the wilderness these, but bellows to be heard by all, hoping for a harvest of votes at the next reckoning) of the Gammanpila and Weerawansa prophets of doom, Cass got an idea of what was in store for our people and our country because of ACSA and SOFA. According to them, solely because of PM Ranil W, a fleet of US aircraft carriers and subs have entered the ports of Colombo and Magampura (sorry: Mahinda Rajapaksa Port); replicas of Air force One are landing smoothly in Katunayake, H’tota (again Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport) and even Palaly. According to the duo, the Eagle has landed and we are a subject dot to the might of Trump and his men. So naturally Cass shivered and shook and again sent heavenwards the prayer she repeats often now: "Thank the Lord! I won’t live to suffer the surrender!"

According to the Opp politicians and the pohottuwas, led by GLP, Ranil W and his advisers have secretly sold the country to the Americans. Cass sat and thought deep and concluded, if the accusation is justified, that the UNP government is merely following a precedent set by the former government of the Rajapaksa Family, who sold prime land to the Chinese in Colombo; allowed the unnecessary building of an island in the sea, thus inviting an invasion of Chinese workers and got hugely indebted to the Chinese to construct the white elephants of a port drawing no ships, an airport having no aircraft landing and a cricket stadium with hardly a test match played.

Merciful clarification

My written meandering has a purpose to it. And so I come to that:

The arrival of the Sunday Island on 7 July mercifully dispelled Cassandra’s mind boggling foreboding as fed in by Udaya Gam, Wimal Wee and GL Peiris: that Sri Lanka was destined to be a vassal state of the United States of America where it’s soldiers could roam free across the land; its sailors commandeer our territorial waters and American jets lord it in our air space. They could demand and get anything from this small country and during any of their conflicts, our country would be the taking off and landing space; the recouping station and thus get drawn into their battles.

All this was dispelled as fake fear-mongering by Kumar David in his article in the 7 July Sunday Island titled ‘A simple guide to SOFA and ACSA’ with the sub-title ‘Not the Americans, it’s our fellows who lack transparency.’ He explains clearly what the two sets of initials stand for and dispels fear about all benefits to America and grave disadvantages to Sri Lanka by signing these, originally by the Rajapaksa government and now by Ranil and his men.

This is the point of this article; the crux of the matter. There are sensible, wise, able-to-make comprehensible international documents that the government of Free Sri Lanka signs. Thank God for the few men of sense and erudition who write and explain matters to us. Kumar David explained the two agreements and also drove away our rising fears.

He writes: "The other danger that some see is that SOFA may be a prologue to unwanted involvement in a regional conflict involving the US, as against China or an imbroglio in the Middle East. I take this less seriously than my earnest interlocutors." He dismisses our fear with good sense. He assures us the SOFA document is eight pages with the rest of the 83 pages being annexures.

He notes correctly as even we simpletons want to: "I am too much a realist to be swayed by emotional sovereignty-type nationalist bleating. What sovereignty for a small country buffeted this way and that by great powers except to intelligently balance between them?" We have said this in our own words too – less elegantly but through plain simple good sense and sincere concern. We are a small, almost powerless country so have to keep good with others.

About Ranil W’s keenness to sign he surmises: "Is Ranil thinking, win or lose elections, the presence of a restraining shadow power will be beneficial?" We ordinary folk approve of the idea. We need countervailing forces present in a subdued manner against the might and conquering power of the giant China. We need Indian and the US presence; we need to be diverse in our international relations: on good terms with all major powers and of course our immediate neighbours.

Kumar David does tick Ranil and the UNP government off for its lack of transparency in this business. He echoes what many say: the agreements must be made known. But Cass has a sneaking feeling that SOFA was not fully exposed, fearing more intense noise pollution by a cacophony of hundreds of voices of self appointed Know-Alls. We have far too many of them!

Cass ends this piece with a relieved mind and a big thank you to Kumar David for demolishing most of the spurious bogeys created by the two Vociferous Ones who oppose just for the sake of opposing, and fear monger seeming to know it all.

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