Sri Lanka expresses sovereignty concerns over Chinese port city project
EconomyNext – Sri Lanka’s new government will review a 1.3 billion US dollar Chinese-funded and built reclamation project next to its main port on security and sovereignty concerns, Investment Promotion and Highways Minister Kabir Hashim said Friday.
"The port city project has to be reviewed completely because we’ve always spoken about security concerns," he told reporters soon after assuming office following the opposition’s win in last week’s presidential polls.
"We cannot have land given on freehold basis to another country in a high security zone," said Hashim referring to the controversial project to reclaim land next to Colombo port.
Hashim is Chairman and General Secretary of the United National Party whose leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed Prime Minister after last week presidential poll in which strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa was ousted.
The opposition was critical of the project during the election campaign saying it lacked transparency.
"There’s been an absolute lack of transparency there," Hashim said, adding that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), which is implementing the reclamation project, had no right to do so.
"The implementing authority is the ports authority," Hashim said. "Rightly speaking the ports authority does not have the mandate to do that. It should have gone through the ministry of finance. It should have come through the correct process.
"The ports authority is an authority. It has no right to get involved in a multi-complex project. It’s mandate is to deal with ports and shipping.
"But this is nothing to do with ports and shipping. It’s about development of housing complexes," Hashim said referring to port city project plan to build hotels and office blocks.
The project will be put before the new Cabinet, Hashim said.
"Our greatest concern is that it affects our sovereignty. If it’s changing the coastline, it should be done properly with the full awareness and acceptance of everyone in the country."