SOFA only if terms are agreeable to us-Ruwan

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Sri Lanka will sign the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US only if the terms of the agreement are favourable to Sri Lanka, State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene said yesterday.

Mr. Wijewardene said this in response to questions raised by the opposition with regard to the SOFA agreement due to be signed with the US during the emergency debate in Parliament last evening.

He was referring to the remarks made by opposition MP Susantha Punchinilame who said the US had already marked out the lands it wants using its modern capabilities.

Disagreeing with the MP however, Mr. Wijewardene said Sri Lanka will not hand over any lands to the US and will also not allow the setting up of military camps by US forces.

He explained that the agreement was still at the negotiation stage.

Mr. Wijewardene said it would be possible to lift the state of emergency in a month’s time. However, he said Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake was correct in saying that there could be long boost attacks in the future and as such the country needs to be on constant alert to detect and neutralise any such threats.

He said the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) has been eliminated. “NTJ leader Zahran Hashim was killed in the suicide attacks while other members of his family also killed themselves in Kalmunai,” he recalled. He said the last member of NTJ, Naufer, is already in custody.