ECONOMYNEXT – Chinese intervention in Sri Lanka’s Port City could pose a danger to the economic and security interests of both the island nation the region, opposition MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said.
Speaking to reporters this afternoon (23), Fonseka expressed concern that the proposed and highly controversial Colombo Port City Economic Commission will allow Chinese business interests to influence the government.
“China’s defence officials are visiting Sri Lanka. We can see that the USD 1.4 billion Port City may come under China through the economic commission,” he said.
“There is a chance that Chinese interference may be a danger to our economy and security and also the region’s security, the way we see it,” he added.
A draft bill to set up a Port City Commission where the Board is to be appointed directly by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and has been exempted from a number of laws including contracts law has brought opposition from several quarters.
Nearly 20 petitions were filed against the bill last week in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court. Opposition lawmakers, including Fonseka’s colleagues in the main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), civil society and other actors claimed that the proposed commission poses a challenge to the island nation’s sovereignty.
The possibility of non-nationals being appointed to the commission could end up with the fate of the people in the area being decided by foreigners, lawyers representing the SJB told reporters last week.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has also said some of its provisions may be violating sections of the constitution dealing with the unitary state, overeignty of the people and fundamental rights.
Fonseka expressed fears today that the China-backed Port City will be run outside Sri Lankan law and outside the purview of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), the Urban Development Authority (UDA) or parliament.
“A few businessmen may try to run it through this commission. There is a chance Chinese businessmen will be appointed. It will be in their interest to keep the present government in power,” he said.
“The government will then forget about the people and start working for [these businessmen],” he added.
The retired Army chief said the SJB’s position is that Sri Lanka’s national assets should be managed under Sri Lankan law.
“It’s not like opening a bakery,” he said.
“We’re studying the [bill] in depth. The problem is not appointing a commission. There are plenty of commissions in the country, but they’re all governed by Sri Lankan law. This one, however, might not be,” he added. (Colombo/Apr23/2021)
Video courtesy: NewsFirst