ECONOMYNEXT – Handing over the West Container Terminal of Sri Lanka’s Colombo port to Adani group is not a government-to-government contract but a private deal without competitive bidding as India had disclaimed all knowledge of it, opposition legislator Eran Wickramaratne said.
Sri Lanka had an official government-to-government agreement with India and Japan regarding the East Container Terminal struck by the last administration, he said.
This current administration said initially that they were going ahead with it due to geopolitical consideration but later said another terminal would be given after protests.
Sri Lanka had said that a letter of intent had been offered to India’s Adani group to develop the West Container Terminal.
“I would like to ask whether this is being give through government to government negotiations?” Wickramaratne who was a minister in told reporters in Colombo.
“No. India has said that the Indian government is not connected to this. Japan is silent. So what is this?”
Sri Lanka had told the media that the Adani investment had been approved by the Indian High Commission, however India disputed the claim.
“Our High Commission in Colombo had already conveyed to the government of Sri Lanka that their media release in so far as the reference to the approval of High Commission was confirmed is factually incorrect,” an India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said soon after.
“We understand that the Government of Sri Lanka has engaged directly with investors on this project.”
The investors would get an 85 percent stake in the WCT terminal compared to 49 percent planned in the ECT, which was partially built by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
Sri Lanka said that in addition to Adani and publicly traded John Keells Holdings, other Si Lnakan investors were being sought.
Wickramaratne said open tenders should have been called to seek investors for the WCT, since it was no longer a government-to-government deal.
“There should be an open tender called and investors should be invited,” Wickramaratne said. “There should be a lease rental or a concession fee and royalties. None of this information is known.
“This is being done as a private deal. There may be cronies (gajamuthuru) involved. We have to keep an eye out.” (Colombo/Mar19/2021)