ECONOMYNEXT- India is calling on Sri Lanka to abide by previous agreements to honour its commitment to developing the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port with the participation of India, Japan and Sri Lanka.
The blunt statement follows a Press Release issued by the office of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier today which said that the government was planning on keeping the ECT entirely in Sri Lankan hands.
A spokesman for the High Commission of India in Colombo said that the mission wishes to “reiterate the expectation of Government of India for expeditious implementation of the trilateral Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) signed in May 2019 among the Governments of India, Japan and Sri Lanka for the development of ECT with participation from these three countries.”
It went on to say the “commitment of Government of Sri Lanka in this regard has been conveyed several times in the recent past, including at the leadership level. Sri Lanka cabinet also took a decision three months ago to implement the project with foreign investors. All sides should continue to abide by the existing understandings and commitment.”
Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s statement was made in the context of trying to get the 23 Trade Unions now taking strike action in the Port against the handing over of the ECT to an Indian conglomerate for development and operation.
The unions agreed to stop the current work-to-rule campaign from tomorrow the Prime Minister’s office said.
Meanwhile Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa says that the ten smaller parties in the governing coalition parties opposed to handing over the ECT to an Indian investor will not oppose the development of the West Container Terminal (WCT) of Colombo Ports by joining with other parties as it was already mentioned in the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election manifesto.
He told reporters today that the manifesto did not mention that the East Container Terminal (ECT) will be developed together with other parties.
“But the west terminal was mentioned in the election manifesto that it will be developed by involving other private sector parties, the mandate was given by the people for it so we don’t have any opposition to that proposal,” he said.
The 2020-2025 policy document which is the election manifesto presented by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said Sri Lanka will attract private investment into a planned West container terminal and study the feasibility of a ‘cross-berth’ terminal between two terminals.
Last Saturday, a member of the Frontline Socialist Party Pubudu Jagoda said that the government is considering a proposals to hand over the west container terminal to India while keeping 100% ownership of the east container terminal.
Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Tilvin Silva said that when trying to give the ECT to India, the government presented the argument that they cannot develop it alone and that they need foreign assistance. (Colombo/ Feb01/2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana and Imesh Ranasinghe