Written by Staff Writer
16 Dec, 2016 | 10:20 pm
The recent incident at the Hambantota port kept the politicians busy, pointing fingers at each other and playing ‘the blame game’ back and forth. The strike and Satyagraha ended yesterday, December 15 . However, the political arena is still on fire.
Pointing out the naval traffic at the port, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa reminded how two ships were anchored at the port and how another two arrived when the anchored ships departed. “And they call it a white elephant”, he said.
Furthermore, he also pointed out how the Mattala International Airport receiving “24 flights a week” during the previous government and how it has now been reduced to “one flight a week”.
“They portrayed it as loss-making and then transferred it to the Paddy Marketing Board in order to insult us. They are doing this because I made it”, said the former president.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Transprot, Ashok Abeysinghe said:
“The port was built at a cost of 144.1 billion. As of today, the cumulative loss is 40 billion. The annual loss is eight billion. How can we sustain this?”
According to Minister Abeysinghe, the only way to sustain was to start a Public Private Partnership, so there will be “no need to pay the loans. They will furnish the loans by paying 150 Billion.”
“The land is ours, so they will pay us a fee. This is a collaboration between the governments of Sri Lanka and China. Therefore, we do not need to pay back the loan”, the minister added.
The minister also stated that the first installment for the Mattala Airport was paid last November. A hefty monthly fee of Rs. 300 million. He said that it is an annual figure of Rs. 3600 million. “The total amount that is needed to be paid is eight times that figure. But how much is the income? Only three million. How is this sustainable?”, questioned the minister.
Answering the journalist’s question:
“They say Port employees were hired on a contract basis?” the former President admitted to it and said that they were first hired as trainees with the option of “making them permanent later”. He added that there was no way of making the employees permanent following the government’s defeat.
Mahinda Rajapaksa: “See the percentage ratio! It’s 80:20. They could have made it 50:50 or 49:51. They could have kept control of this. But when our resources are handed over to other countries, what will remain for your children to use? ..”
Ashok Abeysinghe: “They kept a ship in port by force. We now have to pay 400,000 US dollars because of that. We do not know how much the other shipping line will demand.”
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