Sources said the item was listed as a topic of discussion during President Maithripala Sirisena’s visit to the US from Sept 17 to Sept 23. But, apparently due to last minute pressure from the US, any thought of signing the treaty has been dismissed, the sources added.
The US does not want the treaty, which needs the support of at least 50 countries, to get sufficient support to make it legally binding
According to The Sunday Times, 38 countries had pledged to sign the treaty as of Friday, but the actual number who sign may be quite different, the paper added.
Dr Jayantha Dhanapala, a retired Sri Lankan diplomat who had been UN Under Secretary General and had re-established the Department of Disarmament, described Sri Lanka’s decision as “appalling”.
“It represents the abandonment of the country’s unsullied record of adherence to the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement,” he said.
Dhanapala held the US responsible for Colombo’s decision. The US’s hand can also be seen in Singapore joining the Western world in opting out, government sources said.
Unsurprisingly, India and Pakistan are also opting out of the treaty. However, other countries in South Asia are expected to sign.
Sri Lanka had a different stance on international affairs until the pro-West Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was established in 2015. The post-Rajapaksa government has been toeing the US line in foreign affairs in return for America’s tolerance and patience on war crimes and post-war reconciliation issues.
Recently, Sri Lanka took the US line on North Korea and condemned the testing of a hydrogen bomb.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will be in New York during the signing of the nuclear test ban treaty. He will address the UN General Assembly on Sept 19.